You want drama, you got drama.
Oh, you didn’t want drama? You would’ve been perfectly content with Yankees victories over the Rays on Friday and Saturday, building on the great vibes of that trip to Boston and Toronto and cruising into a home playoff game Tuesday?
You picked the wrong team and wrong year, friends.
How much damage was caused by the Yankees’ vomitous 12-2 loss to the Rays on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, which combined with the Blue Jays’ 10-1 blowout of the Orioles ensured they’d head into the season’s last day without a playoff spot secured? Time for the scene-of-the-mayhem assessment:
1. Aaron Boone is back on the griddle. No, I’m not particularly worked up over the decisions the Yankees’ manager made in Friday night’s 4-3 defeat. This goes bigger than that. For the team’s 5-1 road run over the Red Sox and Blue Jays to turn into a two-game home losing streak against a team prioritizing playoff preparation over winning, falls on the manager, who happens to not have a contract for next year.
Gleyber Torres’ seventh-inning failure to run out a two-out strikeout that got away from Rays catcher Mike Zunino, given Torres’ personal roller-coaster ride of 2021, also presented a terrible look in such a big game.
Boone’s Zen-like evenness drives old-school Yankees fans crazy and very likely helps the team navigate crises. It’s time for the benefits of that approach to kick in again, for the Yankees to win Sunday and secure that wild-card spot for a fresh start, or else face the consequences.
“We’ve been down this road before where we’ve taken it on the chin or had a tough one and there won’t be any flinch,” Boone vowed. “We’ll come out ready to go tomorrow and expect to get a W.”
2. Jordan Montgomery tarnished a breakthrough season. Pitching the Yankees into the playoffs could have been a career highlight for the 28-year-old southpaw, the culmination of his leap into reliability. Instead, not only did he take the loss, but also he pitched so poorly, lasting a mere 2 ²/₃ innings, that he impacted the team’s bullpen supply for Sunday’s critical game. Michael King, an important relief weapon this past month, relieved Lucas Luetge in the sixth and faced five batters, retiring only one and expending 13 pitches over two “up-downs,” as we now call innings. Consequently, Boone said, King likely will not be available for Sunday, when the Yankees start a hobbled Jameson Taillon (good call not starting Gerrit Cole on short rest, not with a contest Monday in the worst-case scenario) and very likely will need plenty of bullpen help.
“Nobody’s perfect. They’re bound to happen over 30 starts,” Montgomery said, before properly shifting into a more contrite tone and adding: “[It] just sucks. [I] wanted to give our guys a better outing.”
3. The Yankees built up no equity against the Rays. If they somehow advance to the AL Division Series, Boone’s bunch will face this same Tampa Bay team, which of course ended the Yankees’ 2020 campaign and enters Sunday’s Game 162 with an 11-7 edge in this season series after Saturday’s 19-hit attack, which featured three homers by Brandon Lowe.
“A really good team over there,” Brett Gardner said of the Yankees’ low-payroll rivals, “but a team that, if we’re going to make the playoffs and ultimately get to where we want to go, [must be] a team we’re going to beat and go through.”Torres and Gary Sanchez went through the wringer yet again. This season’s biggest lightning rods couldn’t escape this final weekend unscathed. Torres earned his boos for his seventh-inning brain cramp, and Sanchez went 0-for-3 with a walk, including a strikeout and a game-ending double play, to extend his slump to 6-for-31.
4. DJ LeMahieu’s injury acquired an official diagnosis: Sports hernia. Guys can play through it, although by all accounts it’s no fun. The Yankees missed even the diminished 2021 version of their leadoff hitter on Saturday.
So here the Yankees go, still able to secure a wild-card slot (and avoid a tiebreaker Monday) with a win Sunday. It’s time for more damage control. If they can’t clean up this mess, you just wait for the drama and damage to come.