How did a team that won nine of its first 11 games in a season limited to 60 dates and led the AL East by four lengths on Aug. 8 wake up Wednesday in Buffalo at 21-21 and playing for its postseason life?
Well, losing 15 of 20 has a way of quickly turning an Audi into a used Pacer. But why did the Yankees suddenly look so awful after giving off the vibe that they were clearly the best team in the AL?
Here is a look at several reasons the Yankees faced the a critical 18-game stretch to finish the season, following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field.
When the Yankees needed him the most, he turned into a ghost.
Giancarlo Stanton went down on Aug. 8 with a left hamstring problem and hasn’t resurfaced. Aaron Judge has played one game since Aug. 11 due to a right calf issue. That left two big holes in the Yankees’ lineup, which became three when Sanchez became an automatic out at the plate.
On Sunday, Aaron Boone removed Sanchez’s dead bat from the lineup Sunday and Monday,. and didn’t play him Monday and returned Sanchez to the lineup Tuesday hoping two days of working on his swing rhythm with hitting coach Marcus Thames had helped. It didn’t, he was 0-for-4.
Among the 219 big-league hitters who had at least 100 at-bats, Sanchez’s .130 average entering Tuesday ranked last.
“Tough for me to not be able to get the rhythm I would like [in the] box. A lot of injuries and a lot of my teammates have been down for a while and not being able to contribute and help the team [in] the box, it has been hard and tough,” Sanchez said Tuesday.
Sanchez isn’t alone in the blame game. Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres and Mike Tauchman haven’t played as well as expected. Still, what is now a .125 batting average, after Tuesday’s game, from a two-time All Star is hard to believe.
Players win, managers lose
Ever hear of 25 players getting axed? Sports are a results-orientated business. The manager gets the brunt of the criticism, so when a team goes south, the manager gets blamed.
Boone has been around the game for a long time and understands the manager gets criticized. He has had his bullpen decisions second-guessed, but only when they blow up. Monday was a perfect example. With the Yankees leading by four runs in the sixth inning, Boone had Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman lined up. Then Green and Ottavino gave up 10 runs in the sixth. Everything was in place for a win that didn’t happen.
Boone also draws criticism about not being critical of his players, but this is his third year and by now everybody should know that he isn’t going down that road.
Stanton was hitting .293 with three homers, seven RBIs and a 1.038 OPS in 14 games when injured. Judge was at .292 with nine homers, 20 RBIs and a 1.081 OPS in 18 games.
They are the headliners on the injured list but not the only names. Luis Severino hasn’t pitched at all due to Tommy John surgery. , James Paxton has been limited to five starts because of a left flexor strain. , Tommy Kahnle worked one game and required Tommy John surgery. Torres was out Aug. 21-Sept. 5 with a hamstring issue, Britton was on the IL with a left hamstring injury. and Chapman have missed time, or the entire season.
That is a lot of big names, but every team in every sport suffers injuries, and remember, Stanton played in 18 games last season and Judge in 102, and the Yankees won 103games.
No moves at trade deadline
GM Brian Cashman attempted to do something, but he said had he agreed to what other teams wanted in return would have made the Yankees worse than they have been lately.
“The players we tried to import certainly could have been impactful for us. They did not get traded elsewhere. … The price tags would have taken away some people who are positively impacting this team,” Cashman said Tuesday. “I think we would be worse off, not better off despite how we are playing right now.”
Before Kahnle was lost, the Yankees’ bullpen was considered by many to be the best in baseball. Even before Monday night’s meltdown, that hadn’t been the case. The bullpen’s 4.63 ERA entering Tuesday was 13th among the 30 teams.
Ottavino has been the biggest culprit with Chapman a close second. Ottavino had a 7.82 ERA in 17 games and was 0-for-2 in save chances. Chapman’s ERA was 7.20 in six games, and he flushed two of three save chances.