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NEW YORK — When Gary Sanchez reached base after snapping a lengthy skid with a bases-clearing double, he reacted as if a significant weight was lifted off his shoulders.
This has been the worst stretch of Sanchez’s 234-game career, and while he still is slumping to the tune of four hits in his last 59 at-bats, the New York Yankees are hoping their catcher gets rolling.
After ending a 0-for-17 slide Friday, Sanchez looks to help the Yankees to a third straight win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (45-20) are 12-3 in their last 15 games after a 5-0 win on Friday. Sanchez grounded out three times before following an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton with a double to right field off Jonny Venters.
“It definitely felt great,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “It’s been a while since I’ve been able to contribute.”
Sanchez’s hit ended his night at .188. His average has dropped from .231 in his last 17 games.
Since his average peaked, Sanchez has driven in five runs.
“Honestly, with Gary, I really feel like it’s every at-bat, it could be turning around,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like he’s close, he’s fighting it, wanting it so bad.”
Sanchez might be the designated hitter Saturday since it’s a day game after a night game, but if he catches, he will be helping Luis Severino attempt to get to his 10th win.
Severino (9-2, 2.27 ERA)is pitching one day before the 40th anniversary of Ron Guidry’s team-record 18-strikeout game against the Los Angeles Angels. On Thursday, Guidry said he believed Severino could be the one to break the mark.
“He’s got the ability to push 20, 21,” Guidry said. “I sit down, and we watch a lot — my wife and I — we watch a lot of games. And I’ve already told her that he’s going to have a night.”
Maybe so, but when presented with Guidry’s praise, Severino was modest about it and conceded “there was no chance.”
“It gives me confidence but to strike out 18 people in a game, that’s a lot of strikeouts,” Severino said.
He already has amassed a lot of strikeouts even before Guidry weighed in. His 109 strikeouts are sixth in the American League.
Severino is coming off a rare loss when he allowed a two-run homer to former teammate Todd Frazier among five hits in five innings of a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday at Citi Field. It was his first loss since April 10 at Boston.
Severino is 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven home starts this season. He also is 8-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his last 11 home starts. It is the longest streak of consecutive home starts without a team loss since 1999, matching Masahiro Tanaka‘s 11-game streak.
The 24-year-old right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 11 appearances (seven starts) against the Rays.
The Rays are 4-11 in their last 15 games and are on an eight-game road losing streak after getting four hits Friday. They also have struck out 25 times in the first two games and are 2-12 in their last 14 games at Yankee Stadium.
Tampa Bay (32-37) gave Friday off to Carlos Gomez and C.J. Cron, and manager Kevin Cash is hoping they can start producing.
Gomez is batting .138 (8-for-58) in 18 games since returning from a right groin strain last month and Cron has 10 strikeouts in a 0-for-12 skid.
“I’m trying to get him rested,” Cash said of Gomez. “I don’t know if going every other day or picking a little bit more days off for him might help him a little bit. He plays so hard when he is out there, give his body a blow and see if it freshens him up.”
Tampa Bay will use a reliever as its “opening pitcher” for the 20th time. Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.76 ERA) will do it for the fifth time this season, but Cash said Ryan Yarbrough will get the bulk of the innings.
Stanek’s last “start” was Monday when he struck out three and threw 27 pitches in two innings. None of his “starts” have lasted more than two innings. The right-hander has not thrown more than 40 pitches in those outings.
And for the Rays by now the novelty has worn off.
“I think they’ve handled it really well,” Cash said. “I think the novelty or whatever you want to call it was gone after the first day.”