This was supposed to be the easy part of the Yankees’ schedule heading into the final month of the regular season. Instead, after blowing a lead they had for most of the day Sunday, the Bombers found themselves on the losing end of a series with the Baltimore Orioles.
A team on pace to lose 110 games while they’re trying to secure a postseason berth this October.
“Incredibly frustrating that we didn’t put our best foot forward the last couple days,” manager Aaron Boone said after the game. “Now we’ve got obviously a very good, hot team coming in to play us and we’ve gotta do better.”
Boone likely played down exactly how he feels inside because this was an unfathomable series loss. The Yankees should’ve swept the O’s, but it was almost the other way around if they didn’t walk it off on Friday night in the Bronx. And because of their current standings in the thing respectively, it was an absolute gut punch to a team that was the hottest in baseball a little over a week ago.
Luckily for New York, the Boston Red Sox, who came into Sunday just a half game behind them for the first Wild Card spot, lost to the Cleveland Indians which keeps the standings the same. But a hot Toronto Blue Jays team gunning for their own Wild Card spot heads to the Bronx, too, and the Yanks have zero momentum to shove in their face upon arrival.
One of the main reasons this series loss came to be is due to an overworked bullpen that had to see Jonathan Loaisiga hit the IL with a strained rotator cuff. Andrew Heaney, who has been put into the bullpen because of his inefficiencies as a starter since the Yanks traded for him, had a bad outing yet again after allowing four runs and the eventual game-winning run to the O’s in the top of the seventh.
Heaney has more than overstayed his welcome. And though Boone said he’ll have to deliver next time his name is called, he’s had more than ample opportunity to prove his worth when the ball is in his hands and he just hasn’t in the slightest. But that’s a conversation for another time.
And that’s because it wasn’t entirely Heaney’s fault. Gleyber Torres deserves some of the blame when he didn’t realize the speed of Kelvin Gutierrez on a routine grounder to shortstop that extended the top of the sixth inning. Naturally, Cedric Mullens launched a two-run shot to come within one run of the Yanks’ lead off Albert Abreu.
“The field was a little bit wet. There was a lot of water and I just tried to grab the ball really well and don’t throw it bad to first base. He hustled really well to first and I took too long to throw it,” Torres explained.
“I feel like everything was on me in that inning.”
“Yes. I mean, I don’t even know that question,” Boone said when asked if Torres has to make that play. “It’s a groundball to short, we have to make that play.”
There’s still a lot of games left to determine the Yankees’ fate, but this simply was a series that they needed to win. In fact, to prove they were a division contender with the Tampa Bay Rays, sweeping this series was a priority to make sure they set the tone.
Now, New York will have to deal with Toronto their next four games before facing a Mets team that looks entirely different than they have recently before seeing the O’s in Baltimore in mid-September.
Every game from here on out means more than the next, and the Yanks certainly know that. And that’s why they need to capitalize on facing opponents they should be beating. This time around, that wasn’t the case and they missed a big opportunity to separate themselves from the Wild Card competition and stay at a good pace with the Rays for the division pennant.
These are the games a team hopes doesn’t haunt them at the end of the season. But we won’t know if that will be the case for these Yankees.
They’d rather look at the dimly-lit bright side here and see that they’re still with a postseason berth and can control their destiny.
“We have like  more games. We have a pretty good team. We lost today but we start a new series tomorrow,” said Torres.
“The good thing is we get to hold the pen. We get to write the story still,” Boone said.