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Is this the way it’s just going to be for these Yankees?
A scrappy offense and rock-solid pitching staff?
The 2003 Dodgers redux?
Because that’s an arduous route to success. And, in case you don’t remember, the 2003 Dodgers missed the playoffs.
The Yankees suffered a heartbreaker Friday night, dropping a 3-2, 10-inning decision to the Tigers at Comerica Park when struggling reliever Justin Wilson, one strike away from closing out a 2-1 victory, instead served up a walk-off homer to Robbie Grossman.
Hence a gutty Gerrit Cole start (one run in six innings) went to waste, as did nice work by the Yankees’ relay relief team of Wandy Peralta, Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman (one shutout inning apiece), who handed the baton to Wilson, whose ERA now stands at 6.08 (yeesh). The Yankees’ defense shined, too, with DJ LeMahieu leaping to spear Jeimer Canedlario’s eighth-inning bullet to first base and Gary Sanchez, after entering the game late, picking pinch runner Akil Baddoo off of first to stomp on a ninth-inning rally.
Some good things gone for naught, thanks to an offense with as good a track record as any in the American League and the worst performance of any.
“When we’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, we’ve got to come through in some of those spots,” Aaron Boone said, referring to the Yankees’ astounding 0-for-10 showing with runners in scoring position. Their lead run, in the top of the 10th, came courtesy of a passed ball by Tigers catcher Jake Rogers, which allowed Aaron Judge to trot home from third. Rougned Odor did hit the ball out of the ballpark, his solo homer to right off Detroit starter Casey Mize knotting the score at 1-1, and added three more singles. He just didn’t get much help.
Especially not from Giancarlo Stanton, who returned from an injured-list stay for a strained left quad and absolutely did not pick up where he left off. The exit-velocity king, who rested with an impressive .282/.347/.534 slash line, struck out in four of his five at-bats, the most egregious K coming in the ninth inning when he came to the plate with teammates on first and third and one out and couldn’t make contact against Gregory Soto. In earning a golden sombrero, Stanton looked far more like the guy who began the season slashing .158/.238/.333.
“I didn’t feel like he was leaving the zone too much except for some pitches in some of his middle at-bats,” Boone said, damning his behemoth with faint praise.
“It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been out. I have to get it done,” said Stanton, who referred to his ninth-inning failure as well as his strikeout looking in the fifth with teammates on first and second and two outs.
With nearly one-third of their season complete, the Yankees are averaging 3.88 runs per game, tying them with the lowly Orioles for 12th place in the AL entering West Coast action. Their pitchers, conversely, are allowing 3.51 runs per game, tying them with the White Sox for the best in the league.
“Tonight, we just couldn’t break through,” Boone said.
When the Yankees acquired Boone from the Reds to play third base for them in 2003, they dealt their veteran who manned the same position, Robin Ventura, to the Dodgers, who stood out for their imbalanced group. Their pitchers gave up the fewest runs (3.43 per game) in the National League. And their hitters produced the fewest (3.54). They finished 85-77, second place in the NL West.
These Yankees (29-22) reside in third place in the AL East, behind the Rays (32-20) and Red Sox (31-20). After finishing this series with the lousy Tigers in the Motor City, they’ll return home to take on the Rays for four games and the Bosox for three.
Will that challenge jolt their offense, their many underachieving veteran players? Are they going to put this sort of strain on their pitchers all season?
If this is the way it’s going to be, it’s going to be ugly.
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