Yankees postseason won’t be fun without fundamentals

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 14: Jose Altuve
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 14: Jose Altuve /

The Yankees are facing a formidable Astros ball club. But as good as Houston is, the Yanks’ problem is they keep beating themselves.

The Yankees are in an 0-2 hole for a second straight postseason series, and you get the feeling these Astros won’t be as easy to overcome as the Indians were.

No disrespect intended to Cleveland; they had an excellent team and were some people’s World Series favorites. However, they drove nails into their own October coffin because of defensive lapses.

The Indians made a whopping nine errors in the ALDS, an astonishing stat for a team that committed the second-fewest blunders in the majors this year.

Now, it’s the Yankees that are shooting themselves in the foot. For the Bombers to have any chance at pulling off another upset, they’ll need to start playing mechanically sound baseball.

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There can be no more oopsies from Gary Sánchez behind the dish. In Game 2, Sánchez misplayed a relay throw by having stagnated feet.

Jose Altuve, Houston’s winning run, would’ve been out by a mile had Sánchez blocked the ball, then applied the tag. But rather than deaden the hop, the catcher attempted a first baseman’s style pick, and the ball tipped off his glove and rolled away as Altuve slid into home, sending the Astros to New York with a commanding series lead.

The Yanks’ base running will have to improve, too, including the decision making from the coaching staff. Third base coach Joe Espada was scrutinized for his questionable send in Game 2 that got Brett Gardner hosed trying to stretch a double into a triple.

The play ended the inning and took the bat away from Rookie of the Year shoo-in Aaron Judge. Had Espada held Gardner, Judge would’ve had an opportunity to hit with Gardner in scoring position.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wasn’t too pleased with Espada’s decision, but acknowledged it’s part of the game, telling Newsday’s Erik Boland:

"“In hindsight, we probably should have held him up, but it’s a split-second decision on Joe’s part,” Girardi said. “I don’t have a [problem]. Joe’s a really good third-base coach and it happens. It was a perfect relay.”"

Then there was the base running blooper from Game 1 when Greg Bird was gunned down at the plate. This one, however, wasn’t on Espada. Bird didn’t get a proper secondary jump on a 3-2 pitch.

Judge roped a single into left field, but Bird angled wide rounding third and slid directly into the plate without keeping his foot down, making the tag easy for Astros catcher Brian McCann.

Bird is a slow runner, but efficient base running would’ve compensated and propelled him to score.

Next: Yankees 3B coach blunder and more lead to Game 2 loss

It would be a shame for the Yankees to spoil their feel-good narrative with a sloppy ending. It’s one thing to be beaten, but a team never wants to lose to itself. A few mental mistakes and lethargic defensive work could be the difference between popping champagne or soon scheduling tee times.