No more recommendations.
No more rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic that currently is these New York Yankees.
No, the industry’s gold-standard franchise comes to Citi Field on Friday night facing the most basic and confounding of dilemmas:
Do they have anything more in them?
Can they steer away from what would be one of the most disastrous finishes in their rich history?
The Yankees completed a “horrible” homestand, to quote their manager Aaron Boone, on Thursday night by registering a 6-4 loss to the surging Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, their sixth straight defeat as they fell a game behind the dormant Red Sox (80-62) in the race for the top American League wild-card slot. The Jays (77-62), meanwhile, in registering their eighth straight victory, crawled within a half-game of the Yankees (78-62), who are now 2-10 since their 13-game winning streak ended, including 1-6 this past week in The Bronx.
“Time to roll,” Aaron Judge said, echoing the sentiments he divulged that he shared with his teammates after this one. “We know what we’re capable of.”
The Yankees never so much as held a lead in this series, the first time that has happened to them in a four-game set since 1924 against the Washington Senators, and ample evidence exists to wonder whether Boone’s bunch, with only 22 games left on their schedule, have lost their mojo. You can cast their search for said mojo as a character test or an endurance challenge, or a little of Column A and a little of Column B. It’s inconsequential. Either they stop this mudslide or they don’t and face the consequences.
Thursday’s script proved depressingly similar to Wednesday’s for the Yankees and their fans: Fall behind early, catch up, fall behind again. Nestor Cortes Jr. deserves credit for grinding through six innings of two-run ball against the Jays’ dangerous offense, and when Anthony Rizzo slammed a two-run homer off Toronto starter Jose Berrios in the bottom of the sixth, he at least granted Cortes a no-decision.
That quickly turned into a loss by Sal Romano, of all people, the just-recalled reliever who took the mound for the seventh inning and gave up the tie-breaking run. Asked why he turned to Romano in such a high-leverage spot, Boone said, “Sal was up here. We like the matchup, him against righties,” and he added that Chad Green, who warmed up in the bullpen and didn’t reach the game, would’ve closed. That, I don’t get. Green can pitch at any time without ego ramifications (unlike Aroldis Chapman). Why not slot him there, giving yourself a better chance to keep the game tied, and hope that your offense (struggling, stipulated) creates some breathing room later for Romano?
Wandy Peralta gave up an unearned run in the eighth, and then fiasco trade-deadline addition Andrew Heaney continued his impressive tribute to Steve Trout by allowing two more runs — which mattered, fully, when Gary Sanchez and pinch-hitter Luke Voit clubbed back-to-back homers with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Yeesh.
You want Heaney out, a demotion he has earned, before the Yankees and equally beleaguered Mets face off in the Subway Series. You want Gleyber Torres, 0-for-4 Thursday, benched in favor of Andrew Velazquez, and sure, works for me, although Velazquez’s .234/.246/.375 slash line serves as ample warning that he won’t do much offensively (yes, he’ll be a defensive upgrade). You want Joey Gallo, with two more strikeouts (and a walk, natch) Thursday, to go away, too, and gosh, that’s a tough ask, if understandable, given his track record. Greg Allen? Adam Warren? A couple of maybes.
This season has felt so very long, surely a by-product of the uptick from last year’s COVID-shortened schedule as well as actual COVID still wielding its considerable clout. We’ve counted the Yankees out before, only for a revival to occur. We’ve declared them serious October players, only for this latest dumpster fire to rage.
“I have a ton of confidence in that group in there and understand it’s been bad this week,” Boone said. “But we’ve got a great opportunity in front of us.”
A great chance for infamy, too. Either way, this is gonna be one heck of a stretch drive.