Sánchez benched by Yanks for Higashioka in Game 3 vs Rays

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Gary Sánchez has been benched by the New York Yankees, who started Kyle Higashioka to catch Masahiro Tanaka in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

Sánchez, a 27-year-old who is a two-time All-Star, hit .147 this season, which would have been lowest in the majors by far if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts as the Rays won 7-5 on Tuesday night to tie the best-of-five series 1-1.

His final strikeout was against Peter Fairbanks on three consecutive fastballs for the second out of the ninth inning with two runners on base and New York trailing 7-4 at the time.

Higashioka caught ace Gerrit Cole in the opener as the Yankees won 9-3. Higashioka went 2 for 4 with home run leading off the fifth that tied the score a t 3.

Tanaka pitched to Higashioka in a 5-3, seven-inning win as part of a doubleheader on Sept. 1.

“I think it’s it’s more what Kyle’s done really over the last month, month-and-a-half of just playing really good baseball.,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s been really good behind the plate, has obviously done done a good job offensively. And it’s just about Higgy earning more opportunities here of late and wanted him in here today with Masa.”

Higashioka has known Cole since they played on a scout team together as teenagers. Cole was 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA pitching to Higashioka in his final four regular-season starts and is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA pitching to him in two postseason appearances.

Higashioka hit .250 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 48 at-bats during the regular season and went 1 for 5 against the Indians last week. His defense is superior to that of Sánchez, who hit a two-run homer in the second game of last week’s wild-card round.

Boone said the catching decision will be made day to day. He made the call on Wednesday’s lineup with bench coach Carlos Mendoza and did not seek Tanaka’s input.

“I think both guys are going to continue to play for us and play a big role for us. as we move forward in this,” he said. “It’s more just Higgy earning more opportunities, doing a good job on both sides of the ball, and earned his way in there today.”

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