by Howie Karpin/The NY Extra/thenyextra.com
One of the worst months in the history of the Yankees can’t end soon enough.
The Bombers (or is it Bummers) suffered their fifth devastating defeat in July as they blew a 4-0, eighth inning lead and were handed a humiliating 5-4 defeat by the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
This string of excruciating losses seemed to begin when the clock struck midnight on July 1st.
A game that began on June 30th and the Yankees holding a lead before a rain delay, concluded on July 1st with the Angels scoring seven in the ninth to stun the Bombers with an 11-8 defeat. It continued on July 4th against the Mets, a week after that vs. Houston, this past Thursday night at Fenway and Sunday’s debacle.
“Really tough one. It’s a tough one that we gotta get past. Heading into an off day and a huge series coming up with Tampa. Another extremely tough one,” Manager Aaron Boone lamented on the post game zoom.
Domingo German pitched no hit ball for seven innings and came out for the eighth, but Alex Verdugo led off with a hard hit double off of the right center field wall for the Red Sox first hit of the game.
German was at 93 pitches and Boone went to the bullpen (a move I did not disagree with) but Jonathan Loaisiga did not have it as he gave up four straight hits. “I didn’t wanna go much past 80 [pitches] today as it was,” Boone said. “I already knew we were kinda in that danger zone a little bit so just kinda going hitter to hitter at that point.”
The first batter that Loaisiga faced was Hunter Renfroe, who has torched the Yankees all season and he jumped on a 1-0 pitch and drove it down the left field line for a double to score Verdugo with the first run.
Christian Vazquez singled to score Renfroe and make it 4-2. Franchy Cordero, a .177 hitter coming into the game, blooped a single to right on a 0-2 pitch down the middle, to put runners on first and second with no one out. Kike Hernandez, who has also had a good time against Yankee pitching this season, doubled to left to make it 4-3 and put runners on second and third.
Zack Britton relieved Loaisiga and with the infield back at short and second, pinch hitter Kevin Plawecki plated the tying run on a grounder to Torres at short while Cordero took third. Xander Bogaerts hit a medium depth fly ball to Greg Allen in right but it was deep enough as Cordero scored the go ahead run on the sacrifice fly.
Playing back left Boone open to the second guess. “With no outs I just didn’t want to get beat on something soft so had the middle back. In hindsight, that’s the one I kinda question myself about,” Boone said.
In the ninth, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes got the first two outs but Giancarlo Stanton singled to keep the game alive. Pinch-runner Tyler Wade stole second but Rougned Odor popped out to third to send the Yankees packing as chants of “Yankees #@$%” rang out from the Boston faithful.
The Yankees had a 2-0 lead after four on RBI singles by Odor in the third and Gio Urshela in the fourth. Odor’s solo homer in the sixth made it a 3-0 lead and Gleyber Torres made it 4-0 with an RBI single in the eighth.
German’s best outing of the season did not result in a win, but it was impressive nonetheless. The 28 year old right hander gave up a run on one hit with one walk and ten strikeouts. “His stuff ticked up, his fastball was as good as it’s been in awhile. He was spinning the breaking ball and using his change up whenever he needed to, so he was unpredictable,” Boone said.
German also became the fourth Yankee pitcher in history to record four strikeouts in one inning when he fanned four Red Sox hitters in the seventh. Gary Sanchez’ passed ball on a strikeout of Bogaerts, allowed him to reach to give German a chance to join that list.
Even with the 4-0 lead, there were still “red flags” that may have been a portent of the collapse. The Yankees were 3 for 12 with RISP and left 8 men on base, not to mention two more GIDP’s to push their league leading total to 94. Except for two less Red Sox at bats, the game seemed to have the same blueprint of Thursday night’s crushing defeat.
In the top of the first, the Yankees wasted a lead off double by D.J. LeMahieu. In the seventh, the Yankees had the bases loaded and one out but Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor struck out Stanton and got Odor to pop out to snuff out the rally.
Oh, by the way, there was another base running mistake that short circuited a chance for more runs in the eighth.
After his RBI single, Torres stole second. Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman walked Brett Gardner on four pitches to put two men on. With a 1-1 count on Urshela, Torres was too aggressive and got too far off second. Workman spun and ran at Torres. After a short rundown, the Sox tagged him out as Gardner took second. The pick off took the air out of the balloon for that inning as Urshela and Ryan LaMarre grounded out.
The Yankees would’ve been satisfied with a split of the series after losing the first two, but they really needed to win three out of four to have any kind of chance to win the division. Losing three of four severely hurt, not only their chances of winning the division, but their post season hopes as well.
If the Yankees hope to secure the second AL Wild Card spot (which is the only one that is realistically in play because Tampa and Boston are both likely to make the playoffs) they will still need to beat the teams in their own division. Against divisional foes, other than Baltimore, the Yankees are 14-24. Add the 6-4 record vs the Orioles and the Yankees are 20-28.
The Yankees are 51-47 and have 64 games remaining. 28 of those are against divisional opponents, including the next three in Tampa beginning Tuesday night and 19 divisional games in September. With the way things have gone this year, those divisional opponents will be licking their chops to have a chance to officially end what has been one of the worst Yankee seasons in a long, long time.
An exasperated Boone continues to put up a brave front, but his hot seat continues to get hotter.
“Especially over the last month, or month and a half, we’ve had some really tough ones to get past, to get through and time and time again, these guys have done it,” he said. “It’s been a difficult season to this point, no question about it. To these guys credit, they continue to get off the mat time and time again and we’ll do it again.” Having to “get off the mat time and time again” tells you all you need to know about the maddeningly inconsistent 2021 Yankees.
The Yankees actually have a winning record (10-8, not including the Angels’ loss that counts for June) in July, with six more to go in this month, but they will look back to these five soul crushing defeats if they miss the playoffs by a couple of games.
Tune into Karpin’s Korner this week as Newsday Yankee beat reporter Erik Boland will be one of my guests. Tuesday night, 7 pm eastern time. Karpin’s Korner on the 365 Sportscast Network. Streaming on 365sportscast.com