Yankees: Second straight ugly loss proves NYY can’t relax after clinch


The Yankees proved they still have work to do in an ugly loss to the Blue Jays in Buffalo on Monday night.

With only seeding at stake in Buffalo this week in a four-game set against the Blue Jays at the minor league turf they apparently defend vociferously, the only thing the Yankees had to avoid was getting smacked in the mouth.

Yeah, about that.

One time’s an accident, but a second consecutive carbon copy game is a trend. And the Yankees, who clinched a postseason berth in absentia on Sunday night when the Seattle Mariners lost a game 1,000 miles away, have been outscored 21-7 by the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the two games since their 10-game winning streak.

As tough as it may seem in the moment, this team must convince itself there’s still plenty left to play for. Because there is.

For a slow-moving game, baseball can proceed on awfully quickly. One minute, you’re resting on your laurels. The next, Erik Kratz is pitching.

The Yankees are still — spoiler alert — a great baseball team. But we’ve gotten on them in the past for wilting after being directly challenged, and for having a sense of entitlement based on accomplishments they haven’t exactly finished.

The 2017 postseason run was fantastic, packed with indelible moments indicating the start of a new era. It also finished in the ALCS, and was supposed to be the springboard to future greatness. Instead, the 2018 and ’19 vintages of this team didn’t even match their predecessor’s high water mark — which was so dissatisfactory it resulted in a managerial departure. That shouldn’t be the standard, three years later.

With plenty still on the table in terms of where their postseason will begin and exactly how comfortable the experience will be, the Yankees can’t get complacent, as natural as the temptation may be. This mini-slide is still in its infancy, but Luke Voit might just have to pull another brutally honest speech out of his back pocket.

The loss to Boston on Sunday? Sure. You have to lose games, as the calendar dictates. Ending the season on an 18-game winning streak was slightly infeasible.

But perhaps the Yankees underestimated Toronto following their slaughter at the Stadium, or maybe they simply weren’t ready to be hit back after accomplishing their season’s first milestone. Regardless of the root cause, the ugliness has to stop with Gerrit Cole on the mound on Tuesday, before this becomes a larger issue.

From five games up on the Blue Jays for the No. 2 spot in the AL East with eight games to play, to three games up with six left. It’s not a disaster, but it is the literal worst-case scenario for these past two days’ worth of baseball. These games still count — and not only in a moral compass sort of way.

Now’s the time for the Yankees to realize they haven’t finished anything just yet.