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For Yankees’ Gary Sanchez, Being in the Moment Has Led to Big Ones

This season, Sanchez said, he felt himself getting better at focusing little by little. In turn, he played better and explicitly told himself to remain confident after miscues, which helped him avoid last season’s snowball effect of mounting mistakes. His teammates and coaches noticed the changes.

“He’s taking more pride in his defense,” said the backup catcher Austin Romine, Sanchez’s teammate of over four years. “He’s working hard and he wants to be a good catcher. When he focuses and puts in the work, you’re seeing him continually make strides to be better.”

While some advanced statistics show that Sanchez has regressed since last season as a pitch framer, he has certainly progressed as a blocker. He more than halved his passed ball total from a major league worst 18 in 2018 to seven this season.

Sanchez, known for his strong throwing arm, started the regular season poorly, with eight errors and four passed balls in the first two months. He finished the season with a major-league-leading 15 errors among catchers — most of them throwing miscues — but he improved the most as a receiver by working frequently with Brown on his positioning and timing.

Sanchez was charged with a passed ball in Game 1 of the division series for failing to hold on to a diving slider from Zack Britton, but he made some nimble stops of darting pitches from Chapman in the ninth inning of Game 3 with runners on base. Brown said Sanchez has gotten better not only at stopping balls in the dirt, but in “the extremes in the air that he’s getting to more easily than he has in the past.”

“Watching him catch, especially lately, he’s more relaxed and comfortable,” Brown added.

When Britton was traded to the Yankees last season, he said he was pleasantly surprised to see Sanchez’s abilities as a catcher were different than what he had heard. Ottavino, a key addition to the Yankees bullpen this season, added, “I’m guessing he’s come a long way, but I think he’s doing a pretty good job.”

If the Yankees advance deeper into the postseason, Sanchez hopes to be in the moment for several more victories.

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