The Yankees bats went limp again yesterday, losing a doubleheader to fall five full games behind the Red Sox. Worse, their lead for the top spot in the Wild Card has now dwindled to just one game. No one is hitting.
The Yankees looked very much like the sub-.500 team, they’ve been since stunning the baseball world with a 21-9 start to the 2017 season. The “Bombers” scored a total of seven runs while getting swept three zip in their series with the Cleveland Indians.
Three of those runs came when it didn’t matter on a home run by Greg Bird in the nightcap, their pitching was mediocre at best, and the team as a whole looked listless and non-threatening.
Moreover, the team’s greatest fear is being realized as both the Twins and Orioles (seven straight wins) have gotten hot, and they’re not. A mere one game separates the Yankees from the rest of the pack in the Wild Card Race, and with their version of “hot,” the Red Sox arrive for four games in the Bronx with a commanding five-game lead in the Division.
A first-hand look
I was at the Stadium yesterday watching with dread at a Yankees team that seemed to be unraveling before my eyes. And I knew from the very first inning something was “off” about the team when the Indians jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opener, courtesy of Gary Sanchez‘s league leading twelfth passed ball (video here).
From there, it was only a matter of wondering how bad the traffic would be on the Major Deegan for the trip back home (I lasted until the sixth inning of the nightcap).
Resorting to madness, I decided to focus individually on Yankees players when they were in the field. I came up with only two guys who came to play yesterday, Ronald Torreyes and Didi Gregorius. Torreyes plays the game like the kid he appears to be. He lopes and hops to and from his position on the field every inning, and he doesn’t lob the ball on his practice throws, he fires them over to first.
Didi Gregorius fields and plays his position like the All-Star he is, directing the infield often without cues from Joe Girardi. The rest of the team was flat and appeared to be going through the motions, even though I know they were not and they were simply beaten by a better team.
Aaron Judge did not play in the first game, but he did appear as a pinch-hitter representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth in the first game. Entertainment for his at-bat came from a mother and her two daughters sitting alongside me who swooned and took zillions of pictures of their favorite Yankee. Judge struck out on a high fastball to end the game.
Do or die, you betcha it is
The Yankees are faced with a monumental task this weekend. And it doesn’t end there with the four games against the Red Sox. Because right after ESPN’s Sunday night’s game, the team flies to Baltimore to face the Orioles in an afternoon contest on Monday, against a team that is playing like they want it.
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Hitting, they say, is contagious. Unfortunately, not hitting works the same way. Equally as unfortunate is a team doesn’t usually wake up during one game or one series. Momentum needs to be built up until the team is once again gelling as a unit.
Bigger deficits have been overcome, and the Yankees have the talent to recover from the position they’ve put themselves in. It’s just a matter of whether they will.
The good news, of course, is they have their four best starting against the Sox with CC Sabathia at the head of the line tonight. Sabathia was pushed back a day to make this start.
But no matter how well the team pitches, losing a game 2-1 as they did yesterday, or another by 4-2 as they did on Tuesday is the same in the win-loss column as dropping one 10-3.
The team has to be somewhat disillusioned at this point. And naysayers are jumping all over themselves to put the first nail in the coffin. But as long as the schedule says there’s a game to play today, the Yankees have as good a chance to turn this thing around as any of the teams who stand in their way.
Obviously, though, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to jump-start that charge tonight.
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