This was a series I truly believed the New York Yankees would shake it up and play up to their competition against the Oakland Athletics. Instead, their lineup left a lot of traffic on the Bay Bridge and their top tandem on the bump and behind the dish was mired in a land of confusion. Hurry back Aaron Judge, hurry back soon.
Flying across the country to play a 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time start game at Oakland (thank you ESPN), the Yankees had difficulty gaining traction in what felt like a Wild Card game against the A’s. Ultimately New York stalled out in a 6-3 loss.
CUTCH AND GO
Returning to the West Coast, Andrew McCutchen was back in his element and motored the New York offense early. During the first frame, McCutchen recorded his first hit as a Yankees, singling against the shift off Trevor Cahill. With one down, McCutchen stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw to center. A sacrifice fly RBI to center by Aaron Hicks plated McCutchen and gave the Yankees a 1-0 edge.
Normally the reliable Yankee stopper following a loss, CC Sabathia seemed to hit a walk in the early going. After recording the first out, Sabathia yielded four consecutive singles and walked in a run. Sabathia appeared to regroup with a strikeout but Oakland pushed across a third run by virtue of a throwing error at third by Miguel Andujar.
On the whole, Sabathia wouldn’t make it out of the fourth frame, yielding five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks. It was not a good time for 2014 CC to show up.
In the second inning, the Yankees would strike back. Gary Sanchez set the table with a leadoff walk. With one out, Luke Voit parked a two-run tater to center, squaring the contest at three. The home run gave the game a 2017 AL Wild Card game type vibe, with Voit playing the role of Didi Gregorius.
However, the similarities would end with A.J. Cole taking over for Sabathia instead of say, Chad Green or any of the other 11 available relievers in the bullpen. It wouldn’t help matters either that the Yankees stopped scoring after the Voit home run.
Cole would allow an inherited runner to score in the fourth and would yield another run in the fifth.
Green eventually entered and fanned two in a scoreless frame.
Jonathan Loaisiga, who, unlike Justus Sheffield, is ready to pitch out of the bullpen without any relief experience apparently, tossed two strong scoreless frames registering four K’s.
For the first six innings, it felt like both teams were double parked or had hot dinner dates after the game. However, as the game slowed down, the Yankees were able to grind and use some of their patience and power to earn a 5-1 victory.
The inconsistent umpiring didn’t help but neither team was cooking up much for the first six frames. New York hit three “Yankee Stadium” home runs but the ball was dead against the cold Oakland air. The A’s would strike first against J.A. Happ when a drive to straightaway center by Stephen Piscotty bounced off the top of the wall and over, giving Oakland a 1-0 lead in the second stanza.
A quick aside, I never thought I’d say this given their Hall of Fame players and four titles but between the 17,000 in attendance for a pivotal pennant chase matchup, the fans randomly drumming, the stadium with its painted outfield grass and the “bullpening,” Oakland felt a lot like “Tampa west” Tuesday evening.
Speaking of that “bullpening,” Liam Hendriks and Daniel Mengden combined to hold the Yankees without a hit until Gleyber Torres reached on a single to left in the sixth, chasing Mengden, who was apparently on a very short leash. Oakland would only face the minimum, thanks to a pair of double plays in the fifth and sixth, which erased an error in each frame, plus Torres would get picked off first base in the sixth by Ryan Buchter.
AN-DREW A CUTCH WALK
In the seventh, the Yankees started to grind. Brett Gardner set the table with an infield single to shortstop. Facing Jeurys Familia, Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single to left. McCutchen displayed a keen eye at the plate and worked a walk to load the bases. Ensuing batter Aaron Hicks would show great plate discipline himself and coax an RBI-walk.
That patience proved pivotal given the strikeouts by Andujar and Gary Sanchez and a popout by Neil Walker to end the bases loaded an zero out rally. The unfortunate part of the squandered opportunity is that the long inning cost them more length out of Happ, who delivered a bounce-back outing, only allowing one run on two hits and one walk while fanning five in six-plus frames of work.
After Happ yielded a single to Matt Chapman in the seventh, skipper Aaron Boone summoned David Robertson to the bump. Robertson was up to the challenge, whiffing Jed Lowrie, pitching around what looked like a non-check swing third strike walk to Khris Davis and fanning Piscotty and Matt Olson to squash the threat.
Zach Britton tossed a scoreless eighth and Dellin Betances proved again that he’s more than up to the challenge of handling the ninth.
Facing Fernando Rodney to lead off the eighth, Voit continued to channel 1998 Shane Spencer and perhaps 1996 Cecil Fielder, with that big “45” on his back. Voit crushed a solo shot to left and said get on my back with the go-ahead home run, his eighth of the season.
An infield single by Gardner, off the glove of Olson at first base, would cap off the Yankees’ scoring at 5-1.
It was an outright sloppy debacle from the start. Perhaps we’re looking at a Masahiro Tanaka-Austin Romine battery in the AL Wild Card game. The offense didn’t exactly light the world on fire either in the 8-2 defeat.
There was no defending the indefensible leaky battery of Sanchez and Luis Severino. Severino posted his shortest outing of the season, yielding five runs on six hits and one walk in 2.2 frames. Sanchez looked completely lost and one wonders if Joe Girardi and Tony Pena couldn’t straighten him out, what does one do at this point, bring in Jorge Posada and read him the riot act?
After the Yankees offense left the bases loaded in the top half of the first inning, the bottom half completely unraveled. Ramon Laureano led off with a double and with one out advanced to third on a passed ball. Jed Lowrie followed with an RBI-single to right, providing the A’s with a 1-0 edge. A double by Davis set up second and third. With Olson at the dish, a Severino wild pitch enabled Lowrie to scamper home. Olson would follow with an RBI-double. With Piscotty at the plate, another passed ball on Sanchez enabled Olson to move up to third and a wild pitch from Severino allowed Olson to score.
How one even begins to place a bow on that showing is beyond me.
A two-run single by Piscotty would chase Severino in the third inning.
HECH CAN GLOVE IT
Amid all of the bad defense, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding play made by Hechavarria in the fifth, ranging all the way from second base to make the flip to first to record the out. He’s a joy to watch. If the Yankees wanted to keep trotting him out at shortstop, give Stanton a rest and ease Didi Gregorius back in with some work at DH or even playing Gregorius at shortstop, Hechavarria at third base and Andujar at DH to rest Stanton, it might not be the worst idea.
Somewhat making up for one of his umpteen miscues, Sanchez accounted for the New York offense, swatting a two-run homer to left in the seventh. Sanchez’s home run off Mike Fiers was No. 15 on the campaign and broke the shutout.