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BOSTON – The Yankees had no response Tuesday night. Not for the Red Sox, against whom they lost 6-2 in the wild card game to end their season, nor for the fans, who would like to know what is wrong with this team and if it can be fixed.
Manager Aaron Boone said the rest of the league “closed the gap” on the Yankees. Perhaps the problem is that the organization believes it is leading the pack. New York hasn’t won the World Series, or even the American League pennant, since 2009. That was a couple of eras ago. At the time, you had to transmit the stolen signs by telephone line!
General manager Brian Cashman has built a club that relies on patience and hitting the plate, and a dominant ace and relief corps on the mound. This team did not make the trip to Boston.
Starting with Gerrit Cole, to whom the Yankees gave $ 324 million two years ago and who gave the Yankees two innings on Tuesday. He never found his fastball drive, and the Red Sox had a blast with the low-speed throws he mixed up. He faced three hitters in the third, in which case he had already given up three runs, before Boone finally came looking for him. He got as many provocative “Gerr-it” chants from the 38,324 at Fenway Park (three) as he did strikeouts.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” Cole said.
He left his Sept. 7 start against the Blue Jays after 3 of innings with what the Yankees called left hamstring strain. His next start was pushed back a day, but the team otherwise made no concessions to the injury, and throughout the day Cole insisted his hamstrings were fine. “It’s good,” he said on Monday. But before leaving that start against Toronto, he had a 2.78 ERA in 158 innings, with his opponents’ OPS of 0.596. Since then he had a 6.93 ERA in 24 innings. Hitters banged .608 against him. He essentially turned his opponents into Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Boone said “it’s definitely possible” that the hamstrings affected his ace. Cole disagreed.
“No,” he said. He added that he felt “stomach ache” about his discharge.
Whatever the reason, Cole had some help putting out the Yankees’ season lights. It was the most embarrassing performance by a group of New Yorkers since Andrew Cuomo and his team wrote a book on leadership.
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A Yankees offense that took the sport to the marches this year hasn’t worked a single one. In the regular season, the New York hitters also got the ball rolling, seeing an average of 4.1 pitches per appearance at home plate; on Tuesday, they were on average 3.5. Aside from Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a few baseballs about 1,100 feet, the offense seemed to be trying to make sure fans caught the last T in Kenmore Square.
“I don’t know why we didn’t realize our potential there,” Boone said.
Perhaps in part because they didn’t have their strongest attack on the pitch. Boone started hitting Kyle Higashioka light on wide receiver because Cole prefers to pitch him, and the Yankees had three backstops on the roster to give themselves options. With Cole out of the game, Higashioka’s fifth inning at batting seemed the obvious time to pinch slugger Gary Sánchez. Instead, Boone let Higashioka weakly wiggle a cursor to hit three to complete the frame.
Boone said he was waiting for a bigger seat. When that spot arrived, to start the eighth, Sánchez swung on the first pitch he saw and lined up in the center.
In sixth, with one score, one out and Aaron Judge first, Giancarlo Stanton won his second 400-foot single of the game against the Green Monster. Judge was slowing down on third base, but third base coach Phil Nevin sent him home anyway. Instead of runners in first and third with one out, the Yankees ended up with a man in second with two outs. The next hitter, Joey Gallo, is out.
At the second, Stanton shouted, “F —!” Because those teams were tied at 91-71, their head-to-head record (Red Sox 10, Yankees 9) meant Boston hosted the wild-card game. This bullet would have been fired anywhere else, Stanton thought. “Every game counts,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s March, April. We only needed one more.
This lack of urgency could be the Yankees’ story of the year. In the bottom of the sixth, with a bullpen fully rested and the highest stakes possible, Boone left Luis Severino – two weeks behind with an elbow injury that kept him out of the majors for 706 days. – walk Xander Bogaerts four lengths and stay in the game. Next hitter, Alex Verdugo, scored a brace in the right corner and Bogaerts scored from the first goal. It was only then that Boone motioned to the bullpen.
Boone is beloved by all accounts and a competent manager in the regular season, but once the schedule rolls over to October he always seems like a hitter or two behind the action. The last time these teams met in the playoffs, at the 2018 ALDS, Boone seemed surprised at times to learn that a playoff game was taking place. In Game 3, he identified in the first inning that Severino was lacking in command but did not bring anyone up to the reliever box until the first two men reached in the fourth inning, with the Yankees having already lost. 3-0. They lost this series. They also lost this one. He is not sure whether he will have the chance to manage another.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I like being here. I love working with this group of players, but we’ll see.
When it was all over and the Red Sox rushed onto the field and threw themselves at each other, most of the Yankees lingered in the dugout for a few minutes and watched. They will have to wait a year to have the chance to feel this joy. They may need more time to close the gap.
More MLB coverage:
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• Expert predictions: who will win the World Series?
• MLB Power Rankings: size the field for the upcoming playoffs
• Will the Cardinals’ hot streak count in the playoffs?
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