Yankees answer fans’ prayers with major lineup change for Game 3
By Adam Weinrib
The Yankees’ Game 3 lineup features Kyle Higashioka over Gary Sanchez. As you were.
At this point in the Gary Sanchez vs. Kyle Higashioka discourse, we’ve had enough of attempting to defend Sanchez’s 2020 (and 2019, and 2018…) exploits. Apparently, so have the Yankees.
Entering the postseason, Higashioka was firmly implanted as ace Gerrit Cole’s designated Game 1 catcher, and guided his partner to spectacular outings in the opener of both the Wild Card Series and ALDS. Not only did he serve as a reliable backstop this week, but he socked a game-tying homer off Blake Snell, lined a single to open the Yankees’ rally in the ninth inning on Monday, and made the adjustment of the century on a Cole curveball with the bases loaded to keep things locked at 4-3.
In essence, he showed off his ability to do everything that Gary Sanchez has, basically, never done in the postseason.
And in Game 3, with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound for a must-win hinge game, it’ll be Higashioka back there again, trying to export all the negative energy that Sanchez brought to the diamond on Tuesday night.
We want nothing more than for Sanchez to be the reliable force he presented himself as in 2017. But we’re now going on three years of evidence that, on the nights when he’s not bringing his A-game, he’s a net negative.
The team’s insistence on Sanchez’s framing improvements have led to a lot of clunky and obvious swipes. He’s supposed to redeem himself with a cannon of an arm, but between the cavalcade of passed balls and confusion, we’ve rarely seen it.
.186 average in 2018. A .207 second half in 2019. A .147 average in 2020. Has never hit higher than .200 even in a full-length playoff series. Followed up his two-run home run from Game 2 in Cleveland with a rally-killing three-strikeout effort on Wednesday.
At a certain point, you simply have to ride the hot hand, especially if the cold hand has been largely draining since early 2018.
Oh, and Brett Gardner is in for Clint Frazier again. Worked a few times last week. Could work again. Gardner knows Morton. We won’t dive too deeply into that.
Up until Game 2’s Happ-Garcia swap, the Yankees and Aaron Boone had ridden a remarkable streak of pressing the right buttons throughout the postseason’s first two games. Sanchez did exactly what he had to do in Game 2 to get benched in Game 3, and with the series hinging on these next few innings, the move was swiftly made.
At some point, we must stop hearing about how unlucky Sanchez is, and start admitting that in a results-based business, this isn’t just frothy fan anger. It’s a legitimate argument. Higashioka isn’t the permanent starting catcher, but he’s in a better rhythm right now, and we’re in favor of it.