Brantley later scored on the second of two wild pitches that Sanchez could not keep in front of him. The first wild pitch careened off Sanchez’s wrist; he was examined but not removed from the game.
While shoddy defense has become a trend for the Yankees in the first two games of this series — right fielder Aaron Judge’s errant throw allowed a run to score — the Indians benefited from a couple of superlative plays from third baseman Giovanny Urshela.
He robbed Matt Holliday of a single by making a sprawling stop and throwing to first from his knees, but his more spectacular effort kept the Yankees at bay in the fifth. Urshela ranged to his right to glove Clint Frazier’s high bouncer and made a leaping Jeter-like throw to the plate — his only real play — in time for catcher Roberto Perez to slap a tag on Ronald Torreyes.
Manager Joe Girardi, whose team has scored two runs in the last 28 innings, had beseeched his players to improve their approach at the plate, saying he wanted to see more hitters using the middle of the field.
“It comes down to approach and understanding what a team is giving you and taking it and not trying to do too much,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it’s passing the baton. If they’re not going to pitch to you, let them walk you. Trust the guy behind you.”
For all the renewed emphasis on trying to think smaller, the Yankees were stifled by Trevor Bauer and his big breaking curveball until they got a big blast in the fifth. Bauer, who was cruising with a three-hit shutout, delivered a 1-2 fastball under the chin of Todd Frazier.
Frazier, after being spun back, expressed his displeasure with a few words directed at Bauer. Then, on the next pitch, Frazier lifted a sharp curveball on the outside corner into a brisk wind blowing out toward right. The ball carried and carried until it just cleared the right-field wall, bringing the Yankees within 4-1.
The hit seemed to unnerve Bauer. Torreyes followed with a single. Then, with Torreyes running on a full count, Brett Gardner — who later drove in the Yankees’ second run with a single in the ninth — grounded a single right where shortstop Francisco Lindor would have been. Instead of an inning-ending double play, the Yankees had runners on the corners. But their threat fizzled when Urshela threw out Torreyes at home, and after a walk to Judge loaded the bases, Bauer struck out Sanchez.
That at-bat encapsulated how pitchers have approached Sanchez, who remains among the best hitting catchers in baseball, even if not as fearsome as he was during the final two months of last season. Bauer threw four consecutive curveballs; Sanchez took the first two for strikes and fouled off the next two. Bauer then threw a fastball off the outside edge of the plate, which Sanchez took for a ball, before returning to the curveball, which Sanchez flailed at as it bounced in the dirt.
More costly, though, was his work behind the plate, something Girardi has pointed out as an area where Sanchez needs to improve. Though he confronted Sanchez in the dugout earlier this season for not hustling after a pitch that got away, Girardi has generally praised Sanchez’s effort. Still, the passed ball he allowed in the second inning was his 11th of the season, the most in baseball. He also has 10 errors, the most in the American League among catchers.
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