For both the Yankees and their fans, last night was a wild ride on the Cyclone at Coney Island….in the dark! Detroit’s lead-off hitter Jeimer Candelario, who is batting .228, greeted J.A. Happ with a screaming line drive deep into the left field bleachers on the 5th pitch of the game. However, Yankee fans knew it was the 54-80 Detroit Tigers here and that one run would be like a fly on your cupcake. Just a small annoyance. Sure enough, in the third inning Yankee DH Giancarlo Stanton would deposit home run number 33 for the year and 300th of his career into the right field bleachers giving the Bombers a 2-1 lead.
After that it was a roller coaster ride with the lead changing hands six times and the game being tied twice. Except for one unearned run by the Yankees, all the scoring came from home runs that totaled 8 on the evening. How about a “hit and run” or a bunt once in a while so I can remember how baseball used to be. I vaguely remember but think it was called “manufacturing runs.” The biggest crash and burn though came in the top of the ninth with the Yankees up 7-5. Manager Aaron Boone brought in Dellin Betances to close out the game. After he struck out Mikie Mahtook on 6 pitches, he walked Nicholas Castellanos on four pitches. That set the stage for the clean-up hitter, 39 year old Victor Martinez, to ruin what would have been a much needed comeback win for the Bombers. The old pro had other plans last night as he clobbered a 99 mph flat fastball into the stands for his second 2-run home run of the night and just like that the game was tied again.
Hold on, we are not finished yet. Martinez was followed by Niko Goodrum. The .233 hitting Goodrum would then put an 84 mph knuckle-curve from Betances (that either didn’t knuckle or didn’t curve) into the second deck inside the right field foul pole to give the Tigers the lead. What just happened here? The Yankees are not supposed to lose to the mediocre White Sox and then the dismal Tigers at this point in the season. This is a gift of the schedule having to play two teams who are rebuilding. These are games they must win. Shoot, the Tigers don’t even have any real prospects playing here. Betances did strikeout the side but it took him 29 pitches to get out of the inning with a blown save and eventual loss.
Happ didn’t have it tonight, it “happ-ens,” But the play behind him didn’t help. Neil Walker was awful at second base and Gleyber Torres who has played brilliantly at second base all year seems out of wack at shortstop, a position he has always played throughout his career. Yes the Yankee ‘B’ team is taking some lumps right now. But hope is on the way.
Gary Sanchez will be back tomorrow and is scheduled to play on Saturday, but that will not be enough. The slow progress of Aaron Judge’s rehab and just watching the big outfielder walking around in the dugout tonight confirmed to me that he is not even close to coming back soon. Brian Cashman needed to find a bat, real fast. He did that with a late night trade with the Giants for 31 year old former MVP Andrew McCutchen. He is not quite the calvary coming to save the day but his addition right now will help a lot. If 31 sounds old, think about the fact that Betances is 30. I remember a piece by fellow writer Howie Karpin at the beginning of last year and a number of conversations I had with him about his belief that McCutchen can still play at a high level. I agree and I too believe Cutch still has plenty left in him. If you want to know who you are getting Yankee fans, I suggest you read Howie’s column https://www.nysportsday.com/2016/12/23/karpin-andrew-mccutchen-in-decline-not-yet/
Hopefully this club can put this blown game behind them and go on a long winning streak. They need to get hot now as the season winds down to playoff time. Even if they don’t catch the Red Sox, they need to get on a roll and go into the playoffs with confidence.