Baseball is a game of trends and right now the New York Yankees are trending in the wrong direction at the absolute worst time. They received sloppy play in the field committing three errors, their ace was unable to maintain two leads and the offense had an ugly 3-for-17 performance with runners in scoring position. It all added up to an 8-5 loss to the last place Toronto Blue Jays and concern about their lead in the division is now showing.
The Yankees are off today and need to recollect and reexamine their play and position in the AL East. Only six weeks ago the Yankees held a demanding 10-game lead in the division. Beginning Friday, the series with the Baltimore Orioles has big ramifications for the remainder of the season. The Yankees have dealt with numerous injuries and have overcome them, but to lose two of three from a team completely decimated by their own lengthy DL list is a bit shocking.
Yes, they could have won both of the games they lost, but they could have easily lost the game they won too. Teams have to finish off games. Rafael Soriano couldn’t do it Monday and CC Sabathia and the Yankees offense couldn’t do it yesterday afternoon.
Sabathia was staked to a 2-0 lead in the first as the Yankees received a RBI-single from Andruw Jones and a RBI ground out from Curtis Granderson off Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ. Sabathia coughed up the lead for the first time in the third. After loading the bases with two singles and an error by Jayson Nix, Sabathia got Mike McCoy to bounce into a double play, third to home to third. But Sabathia couldn’t completely shut down the rally, allowing singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind and then a double to Yunel Escobar making the score 3-2 Blue Jays.
The Yankees struck right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning on Granderson’s double. But they squandered a big chance in the fourth to knock Happ out of the game. With the bases loaded and one out, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano struck out.
Sabathia seemed to settle down with a scoreless fourth and fifth, but allowed a leadoff single in the sixth and then a homer to Escobar, who practically beat the Yanks on his own yesterday, to give back the lead for the second time. From that point the Yankees kept getting runners to second with no more than one out and could only convert in the eighth with one-run on a double by Russell Martin, which cut the Toronto lead to 6-5 .
In the ninth, Joe Girardi was ‘forced’ to bring in Joba Chamberlain into a situation he stated recently he would try to avoid with the bases loaded and one out. Escobar wasn’t finished as he doubled to right on a looping fly ball that Jones dove for and couldn’t corral scoring two more runs. Chamberlain doesn’t belong on a MLB field right now and sending him down to the minors is no longer an option as their seasons wind down. He was brought up too early and the Yankees may not get anything of quality out of him this season if he doesn’t straighten up quickly.
The Yankees (75-55) were fortunate that the Orioles were beat in their game last night and still maintain a 3.5 game lead. That said, the Bombers could actually find themselves in a virtual tie should the Orioles sweep the Yankees this weekend at the Stadium. The O’s are coming in with confidence after taking two of three from a good Chicago White Sox team and doing what they should have winning two of two from the Jays, while the first place Yanks could only manage a 3-3 record in the last two series after playing two teams who simply are not that good.
No one is going to roll over for the Yankees. We’ve talked about resiliency and we can’t take that away from this team, but no one will pat them on the back if they lose a 10-game lead and tell them they tried hard. It will be a colossal disaster to lose the division lead and it is magnified by the fact that this is the most popular team in professional sports. The Yankees need to buckle down once more and leave it all out on the field, that’s what the Orioles have done all year.