SEATTLE — It is just one arm extended, but it means so much in baseball. The intentional walk, an act of surrender, is the ultimate sign of respect for the batter being given the free pass, while it can be a slap in the face to the man in the on-deck circle.
It is not a rare occurrence, except when the hitter being walked is in career game No. 21 and the batter behind him has 404 career home runs.
“Shoot, if Babe Ruth is hitting behind him, you intentionally walk him,” said Teixeira after the Yankees’ 5-0 victory over the Mariners. “I mean, he is as hot as any player I have played with in my entire career. You just don’t see guys doing what he is doing. I don’t care how old he is.”
Sanchez, 23, had crushed a solo homer in the first. In the fifth, the double Sanchez smashed down the third-base line was as hard a hit as you will ever see, according to Teixeira.
Sanchez is now batting .389 with nine homers and 16 RBIs in 72 at-bats. His OPS is 1.297. Only four other players have hit nine homers in the first 21 games of their careers. That is in baseball history.
The catcher hit two homers in the first game of the series against the Mariners. The three long balls and all the other lined shots were enough for Seattle manager Scott Servais.
“He’s earned it,” Servais said of the intentional walks. “He did a lot of damage against us.”
In the seventh, Servais put Sanchez on first with a man on second and one out for Teixeira. Teixeira singled in a run. In the ninth, down four runs, Servais loaded the bases, giving Sanchez first, even with none out. Teixeira struck out.
“I’m hitting .195 — of course you walk him there,” said Teixeira, shortchanging himself two points on his average.
Teixeira added, “What’s his pace — 100 home runs? It is something crazy. Like I said, it is not like he is just getting the bat on the ball. He is hitting home runs 450 feet. He is crushing balls.”
Sanchez is on a 69-home run pace over 162 games. He also is proving to be exceptional defensively, zapping would-be base stealers and blocking balls.
Sanchez caught Masahiro Tanaka‘s masterful seven scoreless innings. It was the fifth time this season — and second consecutive start — Tanaka has gone seven or more innings without allowing a run, the most in the American League. Tanaka called Sanchez’s play “astonishing,” which pretty much summed up all of his teammates’ thoughts.
The Yankees took two of three, and they are hoping Sanchez can make their faint playoff chances reality. He is already exceeding expectations.
“I don’t think you expect this out of anyone,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t care how highly touted a player is.”
The only comparison that Girardi could draw since he became manager nine seasons ago is to Dellin Betances. Betances was an All-Star setup man as a rookie in 2014, the first of three straight appearances. Betances has sustained his dominance.
Even if Sanchez is just starting a Hall of Fame career, he might not have another stretch like this, where every ball just explodes off his bat.
“He’s making it look easy,” Teixeira said.
As for Sanchez, he doesn’t seem fazed or amazed by his success, even by the ultimate sign of respect: the intentional walks.
“It is part of the game, I guess,” Sanchez said. “I’m hitting the ball well, so I can see why, I guess, they walked me.”