By Lenn Robbins
If you were asked to pick one game to sum up the plight of the 2021 Yankees, you could do a lot worse than Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Red Sox.
The game ended with DJ LeMahieu, he of the new six-year, $90 million contract, grounding into a game-ending double play. LeMahieu, a .302 lifetime hitter, is batting .261.
Gary Sanchez struck out once. Giancarlo Stanton struck out twice. Domingo German, another of the pitchers not named Gerrit Cole, couldn’t give the Yankees a quality start.
And, oh yes, in what has been a three-year theme, another key player was injured. Zack Britton left the game with tightness in his left hamstring, just two weeks after returning from bone chip surgery.
The Yankees announced before Saturday night’s game in Boston that Britton had been placed on the 10-day Injured List with a strained left hamstring. Lefty Wandy Peralta joined him with a lower back strain. The Yankees recalled righties Albert Abreu and Brooks Kriske.
The Bombers (40-35) will take the field four and one-half games out of the Wildcard. Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 4:03) was scheduled to face former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi (7-4, 3.90). Perhaps this is the night the Yankees turn it around? That seems like a hollow nightly refrain.
The Yankees are only five games back of Tampa Bay, the low-budget Rays, which lost pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton to free agency and Yonny Chirinos to Tommy John surgery, whoare halfway to defending their 2020 AL East crown. It feels like eight games back.
Five games above .500 isn’t an embarrassment. Losing all four games against the Red Sox and eight of 13 to the Rays is an embarrassment.
It’s highly unlikely the Yankees will do something big before the July 30th trade deadline, not with a luxury-tax payroll of about $207 million. If they go over, which is where ownership has drawn a line in the sand, the penalties are stinging. Only the Dodgers have gone north of the $210 million threshold.
So, these are your Yankees. A pitching staff with Corey Kluber and Luis Severino both on the 60-day IL. Another player that was counted on to be a key member of rotation, Jameson Taillon, is trying to adjust to being a fastball pitcher, a daunting change in season.
Clint Frazier, Sanchez and Stanton have combined for 567 at bats and 186 strikeouts. The Reds (100) began the day with two more home runs than the Bombers.
The Yankees have had some incredible rallies in their history. Red Sox fans can tell you exactly where they were on two nights – when Carlton Fisk homered to beat the Reds and when Bucky F#$kin Dent homered in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker game, that completed a comeback from 14 games back.
These are not those Yankees. And it’s folly do keep holding out hope they’re much better than five games above .500.