Baseball is a funny game, based on confidence just as much as talent. Once a hole is poked in a team’s armor of infallibility, it can be hard to get the feeling back and continue rolling. The Yankees learned that the hard way in the third game of their four-game home set against the Houston Astros back in June.
The opener of that prove-it set was typical early 2022 Yankees “magic”; down three in the ninth inning of a seemingly snake-bitten game, Aaron Hicks destroyed a three-run homer to the deep bleachers before Aaron Judge followed with a walk-off smash down the left-field line. Pandemonium. This team finally had the ability to get over the big, bad Houston hump (never mind that they somehow went 4-2 against the Astros in a cursed 2021 season). They flipped the script. They were different.
Until the very next day, when Justin Verlander silenced the Yankees’ bats (again…) and Luis Severino fell victim to a mid-game rally in a 3-1 loss. Not a problem. The Yanks’ point had already been made.
… Until the very next day when Gerrit Cole was out-dueled by Cristian Javier, Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressly, none of whom allowed a single hit. Being beaten by the Astros was one thing. Being no-hit by three of them, on your own turf? Quite another, and it nearly led to the Bombers being held hitless again the next day.
That one ended differently, with a Giancarlo Stanton homer breaking up the blanking in the seventh, a game-tying DJ LeMahieu homer in the eighth, and one of many Aaron Judge bailouts in the 10th after some Michael King brilliance. But somehow, that joy didn’t take, and the team was left with the lingering bad taste of Saturday’s loss. At least, that’s how one anonymous Yankee who spoke to Andy Martino sees it.
Yankees players left wondering what happened after June loss to Astros
As the Yankees put it to Martino:
"Two days later, three Astros pitchers no-hit the Yankees. The next day, it nearly happened again before the Yanks came back. Ever since, I’d wondered if that weekend had punctured the Yankees’ confidence, or shifted the vibe in some ineffable way. Stupid, right? A writer would try to manufacture that sort of narrative.On Monday, though, I ran it by two Yankees, who didn’t find it ridiculous. “Shocking,” was how one remembered the no-hitter more than two months later. Season-changing, though? We shall see.There are reasons for deep concern, there are spots of optimism — and there is still time for this story to conclude in any number of ways."
While injuries across the board, as well as a few mysterious middle infield regressions, are clearly front and center on the Blame Tree, it’s worth wondering whether this series, just as much as the walk-off stunner at Fenway Park on July 9, has had a lingering impact.
After all, you can only have so much “upper hand” left once you’ve been shut down entirely by your current chief rival. Is it a coincidence that the Astros went on to sweep the Yankees in three games in Houston (broken into bizarre sets of two games, then a single contest)?
The Yankees went 3-1 to close out June after the final Astros game, then started July 5-2 before the fateful July 9 blown extra-innings lead off the bat of Alex Verdugo that’s often cited as the moment this season was zapped (the Bombers were 61-23 before that single, 20-31 after).
Some also cite the June 19 blown 8-3 lead in Toronto as a prick of the balloon. It immediately preceded a tough Rays series (where the Yanks struggled to take the first lead repeatedly), followed swiftly by the Astros set.
Whether the players want to full-on endorse the theory or just smile and nod, it’s clear the Yankees lost something around late June, and no single game was more shocking than the Cristian Javier no-hitter, where the Bombers were simply non-competitive. Over two months later, they still seem stung.