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Gary Sanchez is having maybe the all-time best start

TAMPA, Fla. -- Take a moment, please, and think of the great hitters who have come through the game over the past 116 years, which is considered the modern era of baseball. When you are done, return to your screen.

Names such as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds may have come to mind. Now, consider this:

No one has done what New York Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez has accomplished over the first seven weeks of their careers. Not Ruth, not Aaron, not Bonds, not Ted Williams, not Willie Mays nor Mike Trout. No one.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Sanchez hit two more home runs and drove in five in Wednesday's 11-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the fastest baseball player in history to record 19 homers; it has taken him just 45 games. The Boston Braves' Wally Berger belted 19 homers in 51 games back in 1930. No one had hit them at a quicker rate until Sanchez arrived for good on Aug. 3.

"I never thought it was going to be like this," Sanchez said.

Sanchez has hit homers in four consecutive games. Wednesday was his third multi-homer game. He also added a first-inning RBI single. Plus, he caught the whole game, taking a back swing off his elbow in the ninth, causing trainer Steve Donohue and Girardi to rush out. Girardi, fortunately, didn't pass out at the sight. Sanchez stayed in.

Sanchez, just 23, has lifted this Yankee season, giving them an outside chance of still making the playoffs. They stand 2 1/2 games back of the second wild card but have a traffic jam of teams in front of them.

Nonetheless, Sanchez has already made 2016 a memorable year in Yankees history. He will play less than half the season and win the rookie of the year.

"I think you have to think about it, I really do," Girardi said. "I know people are going to argue he has only been here two months, but his two months have been as good as it gets."

The man Sanchez replaced behind the plate, Brian McCann, once again raved about the rookie. On a night when McCann had four hits, he was an afterthought. His postgame interview consisted of questions about Sanchez.

"I've never seen anything like it," McCann said.

When other players, managers and coaches talk about Sanchez, you can tell, on a technical level, they believe that Sanchez is the real deal, both offensively and defensively. They think he will have a long, All-Star-laden career.

McCann spoke about how Sanchez has no holes in his swing, saying he just needs to pick the right pitches to clobber. In the other dugout, Rays manager Kevin Cash said Sanchez may have "the strongest arm as I've ever seen from a catcher." Girardi raved about Sanchez's game-calling skills the other night.

It is all there for Sanchez, who, at one time, appeared as if he might lack the attitude to be a major leaguer.

He has enjoyed a start to his career that, he admits, was unimaginable. The funny thing is he doesn't seem fazed in the least by all his success. While he doesn't come across as cocky, he seems as though he belongs, even though it has been a long road.

He was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican for $3 million. There were questions if he would be too big to catch at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. He was demoted and disciplined in the minors. All the tests, he said, prepared him for the bigs.

Now, he has done something no one else in major league history has accomplished. Not Mickey Mantle, nor Alex Rodriguez or Reggie Jackson. No one. Just Gary Sanchez. He is the fastest to 19 home runs in history.

"It is great when you achieve something like that," Sanchez said.

Then he spoke about how his homers help the team win. He is carrying this club. No matter how far they go, he is making it a fun ride.