Sonny Gray keeps Yankees hot, earns personal catcher for now

When a team wins five games in a row — and 14 out of 15 — there typically aren’t too many problems to be concerned about.

That’s been the case for the Yankees, who now seem to have solved — at least temporarily — one of the issues vexing them, as Sonny Gray delivered a second straight solid outing in a 5-2 win over Cleveland in The Bronx on Saturday.

And the solution seems to be simple enough, since Gray’s turnaround coincided with Aaron Boone letting him pitch with Austin Romine behind the plate instead of Gary Sanchez.

“I trust that guy completely,’’ Gray said of Romine. “Knowing whatever he puts down, just shake your head yes and throw it with conviction. That’s what I’ve tried to do the last couple games.”

And after giving up eight runs over eight innings in his previous two outings with Sanchez catching, Gray has now allowed just four over 12 to Romine.

That — and perhaps the warmer weather — have combined to make the right-hander considerably more effective.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself and I know I’m a better pitcher than the first four or five starts,” said Gray, who gave up two runs on four hits and a pair of walks, while striking out seven. “Maybe it took a little bit of time to get there, but I trust my stuff and I know how good I am and I knew it wasn’t gonna be like that forever.”

Romine’s contributions to Saturday’s win weren’t limited to defense, as he also drove in the Yankees’ first run with a bases-loaded walk against Trevor Bauer in the fifth to tie the game at 1-1.

“I was battling for my life right there,” Romine said of the eight-pitch at-bat.
Bauer, who failed to get out of the second inning against the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS, retired the first 13 batters he faced Saturday until Neil Walker drew a walk with one out in the fifth and the Yankees trailing by a run following Francisco Lindor’s homer in the top of the inning.

Miguel Andujar followed with another walk to bring up Gleyber Torres, who delivered the Yankees’ first hit to load the bases.

Romine fell behind 1-2 before he fouled off a pair of 3-2 pitches then walked to force in a run. That brought up Ronald Torreyes, who got the start at short in place of a resting Didi Gregorius.

Torreyes hit a grounder to short, a seemingly sure double-play ball for Lindor. Instead, the two-time All-Star fumbled the grounder for one error then threw wildly to third, allowing a second run to score, as the Yankees took a 3-1 lead.

Brett Gardner followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in Romine and make it 4-1, as the Yankees scored four times in the inning despite just one hit.
Romine doubled and scored in the seventh to provide an insurance run that Gray and the bullpen didn’t need.

Even before the game, Boone — who has stated repeatedly he’s against giving a pitcher a personal catcher — said the duo will remain together “for the foreseeable future” because it “makes sense.”

Boone understandably doesn’t want to get into a situation in which Gray only feels comfortable throwing to Romine instead of Sanchez.

Afterward, Gray said of pitching to Sanchez again: “If and when that situation arises, it will be just fine.”

He tried to keep his focus on his own improvement.

“A couple starts ago, I kind of got to the point where something’s got to give,’’ Gray said. “I started feeling really good. It started feeling good outside [because of the warmer weather]. I feel loose.’’

The Yankees, in the midst of their best 15-game stretch since 1998, will look to keep up their winning ways against the Indians on Sunday before the first-place Red Sox come to town on Tuesday.

“Whether we have to score with you, whether we have to win a low-scoring game, we’re finding ways to win ball games,” Boone said. “And I think hopefully that’s the sign of a good team.”

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