(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The two home runs and seven runs batted in from Brett Gardner were overshadowed Saturday in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium. And the Toronto Blue Jays took advantage of a Yankees pitching staff that hit their lowest point, and more importantly the two losses to the potent hitting Blue Jays showed that the Yankees are in dangerous territory.
And with another game Sunday afternoon, all of a sudden the Yankees realize they need to win that one against the Blue Jays. Why? A loss with 21 games to play and their chances of catching the Jays diminish with a 5-½ game deficit and that will make it much more difficult.
Then there are the surging Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins who all of a sudden pose a threat in the AL wild card postseason picture, and from the way this pitching staff has performed, though there still is still time for adjustments, the danger does exist that a postseason that looked secure is in definitely in peril.
So the question is how could the Yankees, who are also not slugging the ball with that proficiency of a month ago,turn the corner from seeming to be secure to the unsecure? And with three straight losses to the first place Jays, are the Yankees in the same class with a team that continues to slug the ball with an otherwise mediocre pitching staff?
“We need to right this,” Manager Joe Girardi said after a long day if baseball. “This time of year we are fighting. We have to reach down.” But after a first game that started after 1pm and a day to night that ended about 10:21 pm, there were not many Yankees fans left in the building that have a thought their team will overcome this latest debacle.
It started with Michael Pineda on the mound in game one, and ended with Ivan Nova on the mound in the nightcap, a second game that started at night because the Yankees could not finish off the Blue Jays in that first game that went over four hours in 9-5 11-inning loss.
Pineda wasn’t good, and Nova was worse when he could not get out of the first inning by allowing six runs that were all earned. So quickly, Masahiro Tanaka has to be the stopper Sunday afternoon and if the Yankees do get to the postseason, and that now remains in the balance, Tanaka could be the ace and would take the mound in a one-game wild card elimination.
But the Yankees still feel they have that shot to overtake the Blue Jays. Anything is possible with four games remaining between the two teams, but you take a look and now they may be fighting more for wild card survival with Texas and Minnesota within distance, and a review of that uneventful 11th inning in the first game and it is hard to comprehend.
However dissecting that inning, where Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve could not find the strike zone, is something Girardi and the Yankees hope to avoid again down the stretch where every game is significant.
Mitchell, perhaps in a situation not accustomed too, walked two and hit a batter and was lifted after striking out Dioner Navarro on a foul tip. Bases loaded and one out, Shreve gets the call from Girardi and walked pinch hitter Russell Martin on four pitches and Toronto goes ahead. Then an RBI single, a walk with the bases loaded got another run in, another walk to Jose Bautista and another run scored.
Keeping track was hard to do, and it was also a task for the fans to see an inning of that magnitude and one that that can’t be recalled in all the years of this illustrious New York Yankees history. More so, can the Yankees recover from what has become a nasty five game losing streak and falling quickly at the wrong time of year?
Girardi said about using Shreve in that situation, instead of Adam Warren who for some reason was not available out of the pen, “Shreve hs been more of a strikeout pitcher during the season and that is what I was going for in that situation.” Shreve has an 18.00 ERA in his last three outings.
But it could be a total pitching breakdown. The reliable Dellin Betances gave a fat pitch to Bautista in the eighth inning, his 35th home run, that put Toronto ahead at the time 5-4.
Five straight losses and another one to go Sunday afternoon. Everyone is tried, even the Yankee stadium security and support staff. And those fans, was more of a Toronto Blue Jays presence when game two got underway, and that could not have made it easier for the Yankees or their hierarchy looking around.
Bautista said after the 10-7 second game and sweep, “It means nothing.” It may have been worse if Gardner did not hit a late three run home run in the nightcap. And it may not mean anything until the Blue Jays no longer have a race for the top. But for the Yankees it does mean something, and there is not much time to get things back to normal in order to avoid missing the postseason a third straight year.
“it doesn’t for me,” Gardner said about the first three games going to Toronto and things changing fast. “It could if they win four in a row against us but I don’t plan on that happening.”