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The Yankees were Don Cheech’ed Sunday afternoon, blowing a late 4-0 lead to the Boston Red Sox in the most devastating loss of the year.
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There’s the standard-issue gut punch. Aaron Boone talks about those a lot, because the Yankees collected so many of them this year, have allowed Boone to pursue a master’s degree in the subject. Those are the kinds of losses that keep you up deep into the night.
Then there’s the kind of surprise punch to the solar plexus, not unlike the one that felled Harry Houdini. You get those every now and again in a baseball season. The Yankees lost one of these in Houston two weeks ago. They lost another Thursday night in Boston. These require some combination of Alka-Seltzer, Maalox and Pepto-Bismol to fully recover from.
Then you get something like what happened to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, something akin to the scene midway through “The Godfather, Part 2” where Vito Corleone returns to Sicily to pay a visit to Don Cheech, who had his parents and his brother murdered. Cheech is an old man but that doesn’t stop Vito from plunging a knife straight through his belly, twisting it, then heading north toward the sternum.
The Yankees were Don Cheech’ed Sunday afternoon.
They led 4-0 after 7 ½ innings. Better: They were building on the momentum of Saturday’s feel-good comeback over the Red Sox, a game that actually sent out the message that they weren’t finished yet in the AL East, that there was life yet in the old Bombers. Best: Domingo German had a no-hitter going, he was mowing down the Sox, and Fenway sounded lifeless and limp.
“A really good spot,” is how Boone described it.
And that’s what made what followed so impossible to believe. German lost his no-hitter when Alex Verdugo doubled leading off the bottom of the eighth. German knew he was batter-to-batter, hadn’t thrown this many pitches since May, handed the ball to Boone after 93 mostly brilliant ones, 10 strikeouts next to his name.
And look: In a year when things are clicking, when everything goes right, then Jonathan Loaisiga, making his second appearance since leaving the COVID list, would do what he’s done most of the year, which means plowing through the bottom of the Sox’ lineup, 7 and 8 and 9, and snuffing the mystery out of things.
“I couldn’t do it,” Loaisiga lamented.
He couldn’t do it. He served up double, single, single, double to 7, 8, 9 and 1 before Boone summoned Zack Britton, and by then it was 4-3. He played the middle infielders back — “Maybe the one thing I second-guess myself about now” he said later — and of course a soft grounder that would’ve kept the runner pinned at third instead became the tying run.
Xander Bogaerts’ go-ahead sac fly was almost anti-climactic, that’s how inevitable it was.
And before you knew it, the Yankees had lost 5-4, they were on the balcony of their decaying Sicilian estate with only the knife handle visible in their torso, and the Red Sox were rushing for the getaway car, rushing toward the gate. No season expires in July, not even one that has been this star-crossed from the start.
But we’re close with the Yankees. Awfully damned close.
“Like they have all year, these guys have to handle and deal with adversity,” Boone would say softly. “We already dealt with it in this series and I know we’ll do it again.”
At this point we should say: Yes, we’ve also grown weary of these milquetoast Boone aphorisms, too. Just once, you suspect, Yankees fans would like to see Boone channel, say, one of their own like Nick Turturro, the fine actor whose post-loss Twitter meltdowns have become must-watch (if usually NSFW) treats of daily coping this season (if you don’t already, it’s worth checking out — @NickTurturro1).
Boone losing his mind alone won’t save the season. But occasionally it would be nice as an almost proof-of-life offering — evidence that these games torture the manager as much as they do Yankees fans. We know they do, of course. We know that somewhere inside his inner Billy Martin/Earl Weaver/Leo Durocher is lurking.
Somehow, he keeps it in.
Somehow, he believes in his team, even past the point where others do, even as the evidence has begun to mount that this year might not be their year. There are still 64 games to play. The Red Sox are still flawed. So are the Rays, who the Yankees get three cracks at this week. That’s the good news.
The Yankees are awfully flawed, too, and awfully close to done. They might not yet have a fork sticking out of their back. But right now they do have a knife sticking out the front.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mike Vaccaro