Karpin’s Korner: Altuve Fingers Yanks With Crushing Blow

by Howie Karpin/The NY Extra/

The Yankees are finding more intriguing and inventive ways to suffer disastrous losses this season but this one “takes the cake.” The Yankees were on the verge of cruising into the All Star break with six wins in their last seven games but it wasn’t meant to be.

Yankee nemesis Jose Altuve smacked a three run, walk off home run off of Chad Green, that was like a “middle finger” for those “F-Altuve” chants that are heard in the Bronx. The demoralizing game winning blast capped off a six run rally in the ninth as the Astros handed the Yankees a crushing 8-7 defeat. For the third time in the past 31 days, Manager Aaron Boone has had to address the media after a disconcerting loss. “I’ve said it a handful of times how much some of ‘em have stung and obviously, this one,” Boone said on the post game zoom. “As well as we played this week, to not finish it off right there was difficult but we gotta rally from the adversity.”

On June 10th, the Yankees blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth at Minnesota and lost 7-5. 20 days later, the Angels rallied with seven runs in the ninth to deny the Yankees a game that had seemingly won and now this disaster, in Houston.

The loss left the Yankees (46-43) in fourth place in the AL East, 8 games behind the first place Red Sox. In the Wild Card race, the Yankees have a number of teams ahead of them, including the Rays and Blue Jays from their own division. On Thursday, the Yankees will host the Red Sox in the first of four very important games.

The Yankees built a 7-2 lead going to the ninth but Domingo German gave up an infield single to Yuli Gurriel and a Kyle Tucker double to put runners on second and third with no one out. Boone went to Chad Green to close, but unfortunately he seemed fatigued from the recent work load (5th appearance within a week) and didn’t have it. With a reliever having to face a minimum of three batters, the Yankees were stuck with an ineffective pitcher. “He obviously was a little bit off his command,” Boone said on the post game zoom.

It’s apparent that Boone and the Yankees have lost faith in Aroldis Chapman for a high leverage situation. The left hander wasn’t even warming up in the bullpen while Green was melting down. Boone did not come out and say he didn’t trust Chapman, but he didn’t exactly deny it. “I think he’s so critical, obviously to our success and it’s critical that I think we get him back to where we need him to be. I want to pick those situations where he gets a clean out under his belt,” he said.

Two pitches in, Green gave up a two run double to Charles McCormick to make it a 7-4 game. Abraham Toro stroked an RBI double to cut the deficit to two runs and Jason Castro stroked a pinch hit single to put runners on second and third with no one out.

The new Yankee closer retired Martin Maldonado on a soft liner to shortstop before Altuve got a hanging curve and stroked it into the left field seats to burn the Yankees again. Earlier this season at Yankee Stadium, Altuve hit a three run homer off Green to avoid a sweep. This home run was eerily similar to the one that ended the Yankees’ season in game 6 of the 2019 ALCS.

Up until the 9th, the Yankees were getting outstanding pitching. Jamison Taillon tossed six innings and gave up two runs on three hits with four strikeouts. German pitched two strong innings before faltering in the ninth. With the combined shutout on Friday night and Gerrit Cole’s masterpiece on Saturday, Yankee pitching had held down the potent Astros offense to two runs in 26 innings, but that was before the ninth inning barrage.

The Yankees had enough runs to win but their season long penchant for a lack of timely hitting did eventually come back to burn them. The Yankees drew 14 walks and had 22 total base runners but they were 3 for 16 with RISP and they left 14 men on base. A 10-2 or 11-2 lead is more daunting for the opponent than a 7-2 lead.

In what has been a recurring theme this season, the Yankees appeared to be getting on a roll, only to have it snuffed out by an excruciating loss. “We were three outs away from a really good road trip,”said Green. “Now this kinda leaves a sour taste in our mouths for three days.”

Boone has always supported his players, no matter what, but he realizes that time is running out on the Yankees’ chances for a post season berth. “We’ve gotten off the mat each and every time and we’ve got to do it again and understand what’s at stake starting Thursday.”

What’s at stake could be the season.

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