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Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe New York Yankees have a Gary
Sanchez problem that goes far beyond a strained groin and far beyond a game that
might not have been lost with a little more effort from their 25-year-old
catcher.This isn't about a game in July. It's about games in October ,
and whether the Yankees can win a championship with him behind the plate."No way
they can win in the playoffs with Sanchez catching," one National League scout
said Tuesday.I'm not sure I buy that, because Sanchez was the starting catcher
for 12 of the 13 games the Yankees played last October, when they took the
Houston Astros to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. They're
35-18 in the 53 games he has started behind the plate this season, which is
better than their record in games when he hasn't been the starting catcher
(28-17 entering play Tuesday).I do buy that Sanchez's continuing defensive
struggles and his issues with concentration and hustle have presented Yankees
manager Aaron Boone with the first big issue to solve in what has been an
ultra-smooth first season in charge.It's easy to jump on Sanchez this week,
because the two lack-of-hustle plays in Monday's 7-6 Yankees loss to the Tampa
Bay Rays were so inexcusable鈥攅ven after finding out Sanchez was dealing with the
groin issue that sent him back to the disabled list Tuesday. Sanchez allowed a
run to score from second base when he didn't move fast enough to recover a
passed ball (his 10th of the season, tied for most in the majors). And he was
retired at first base for the game's final out, on a play in which the Rays
first tried unsuccessfully to get Aaron Hicks at second base.It's easy to jump
on Sanchez this year, because his .188 batting average (down from .278 last
year) and .699 OPS (down from .876) have made it harder to overlook the
transgressions in other parts of his game.It's easy to jump on Sanchez, because
on his way through the Yankees farm system he sometimes had similar issues, with
the Yankees using benchings Hunter
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, suspensions and "timeouts" to convince him he had
to grow up. And because some of the same issues they tried to correct
then鈥攃oncentration lapses and poor receiving technique鈥攈ave been so evident this
season."What you're seeing now is what we all saw in the minor leagues before
2015," an American League scout said.Sanchez went back on the disabled list
Tuesday, but his play remains a major concern for the Yankees.Mike Ehrmann/Getty
ImagesThe Yankees stuck with Sanchez then, believing his strong right arm and
powerful bat would make him worth the effort. It helped that despite the
benchings and suspensions, Sanchez never had a reputation as a bad kid, just as
one who needed to mature.Two years ago, it seemed they were right to wait.
Sanchez came to the big leagues and hit 20 home runs in just 53 games, including
11 in one stunning 15-game stretch in August.It was easy to love Sanchez in
2016. When I did a story on him that September, I quoted a scout who pointed to
Monument Park and said, "That's where he could end up."Then came 2017, when on
the one hand Sanchez became just the second catcher born in the Dominican
Republic to make an All-Star team (Tony Pena was the first). On the other
hand Freddy
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, his defense was enough of an issue that
then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi publicly scolded him and even benched him for a
game in August.Boone has been more publicly supportive, to the point of telling
reporters Tuesday at Tropicana Field that he wouldn't have benched Sanchez for
Monday's transgressions. Sanchez didn't play Tuesday, but only because he went
back on the disabled list with the recurrence of the groin injury that had
already sidelined him for 20 games before he returned over the weekend.To his
credit, Sanchez didn't blame his lack of hustle on the sore groin, which he said
he felt tighten up on the first-inning passed ball."An injury is never an
excuse," Sanchez said, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. "If
I'm on the field, I'm good to play. My answer is the same [as Monday]: I could
have done a better job."Sanchez hasnt hit as well this year as Judge, but his 14
home runs are tied for first among major league catchers.Paul Bereswill/Getty
ImagesEven that wasn't enough for many Yankees fans, or for rival scouts who
have grown tired of watching Sanchez mess up over the years."He always owns up
to it," one American League scout said. "But then it happens again."Even
so Austin
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, that same scout said, "I'd still take the bat."Four
scouts interviewed Tuesday about Sanchez were unanimous in still believing in
Sanchez's offensive potential. Some speculated his struggles have come from
trying to pull the ball too often, while others wondered whether his problems on
defense evolved into a confidence issue that has hurt his offense as well.All
agreed the Sanchez problem is a challenging one for the Yankees. Their other
young players cause them little concern, with Aaron Judge one of the most
respected players in the game and Gleyber Torres fitting in seamlessly after a
late-April promotion from the minor leagues.Sanchez is the one who complicates
things. He always has been.When it was that way in the minor leagues, the
Yankees decided it was worth the aggravation he caused to find out how good a
player he could become. They may well decide that again, but after what happened
Monday, it's a question they once again must answer. Danny Knobler covers Major
League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.Follow Danny on
Twitter and talk baseball. SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Atlanta Braves are
threatening to turn a tight NL East race into a runaway finish.Sean Newcomb
pitched six strong innings, Ozzie Albies sparked the offense with two extra-base
hits and Atlanta Braves beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 on Monday night.The
Braves moved five games ahead of Philadelphia atop the NL East and reduced their
magic number to 15 with their fourth win in five games.The Giants lost their
ninth straight, matching their worst skid since 2006.Albies was 2 for 4 with a
double, a triple, an RBI and two runs. Kurt Suzuki was 3 for 3 ,
including a double leading off a two-run ninth inning.Albies scored the go-ahead
run in the seventh. He led off with a double against starter Dereck Rodriguez
(6-3) and was awarded third when center fielder Gorkys Hernandez’s throw trying
to catch Albies after a wide turn at first was off the mark. Hernandez was
charged with an error.“Always aggressive,” Albies said. “He throws behind me,
I’m going.”Albies scored on Dansby Swanson’s sacrifice fly that made it
2-1.Albies had an RBI triple and scored a run in the ninth.“He’s an aggressive
kid,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s always looking to advance to the
next base, that’s for sure.”Newcomb (12-8) allowed a run on three hits. He
struck out eight and walked none.“I was just attacking the hitters the whole
time, trying to make them uncomfortable,” Newcomb said.Braves closer A.J. Minter
pitched a scoreless ninth for his 14th save.Rodriguez gave up two runs, one
earned, on five hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings.“I asked him to go back out
for the seventh. I felt good regardless of pitches,” Rodriguez said. “I thought
I could pitch a pretty good inning. I feel strong. I want to keep going out
there.“I like playing with old school managers. It’s the game I learned, bunting
guys over to second Christian
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, and grew up watching. Having Bochy as a manger
and him having confidence in me is awesome.”The 26-year-old rookie joined some
elite company.Rodriguez became one of just two pitchers to allow two or fewer
runs over six-plus innings 13 times in their first 16 career starts. The other
is former Montreal Expos pitcher Steve Rogers, per to Stats, LLC.The only other
Giant to allow two or fewer runs in 13 of their first 16 starts in a season is
Juan Marichal (1965).NOTABLEBraves OF Ronald Acuna Jr. was among the first eight
players named to represent Major League Baseball in the 2018 All-Star Tour with
Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, which opens Nov. 7 at the Tokyo Dome. …
Acuna’s 25th home run on Sunday moved him into a three-way tie fifth place on
the career list for players under 21 with Hall of Famers Eddie Matthews (1952)
and Orlando Cepeda (1958).TRAINER’S ROOMBraves: RHP Arodys Vizcaino (right
shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday for the first time
in five days. He’s expected to be activated by Friday, manager Brian Snitker
said. … RHP Brandon McCarthy (right knee tendinitis) threw a simulated game over
the weekend but is not expected to pitch again this season. … RHP Jose Ramirez
(right shoulder inflammation) has been shut down for the rest of the season. …
IF Rio Ruiz was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett.Giants: INF Ryder Jones
(dislocated patella on left knee) will have surgery later this week. The
25-year-old was injured taking a swing during Sunday’s game in Milwaukee.UP
NEXTBraves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-9, 2.75 ERA) is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA in six
career starts against the Giants.Giants: LHP Andrew Suarez (6-10, 4.33) is tied
for 11th in franchise history for a rookie with 118 strikeouts. He ranks seventh
in that category in the San Francisco era.
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