No matter how much you torment a team in baseball, even over a 20-year period, there comes a time every now and then when they hand you a stinging loss.
That’s what happened last night at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees lost a 4-3 decision to the team they’ve been tormenting for the past 20 years, the Minnesota Twins. It was Minnesota’s 40th win against the Yankees since 2002 and only their second at Yankee Stadium since 2017.
Carlos Correa hit a two run home run off of Yankee reliever Greg Weissert to snap a 2-2 tie in the eighth and the Yankees feeble offense once again failed to cash in on some opportunities.
It’s one loss that snapped the Yankees four game losing streak and prevented a four game sweep, but it seems so much more than that.
The Tampa Bay Rays did not even play but picked up ground as they now trail the Yankees by 4½ games, three in the loss column and guess who comes in for a huge three game series beginning tonight.
The Yankees lost once again because their offense can’t get the job done. Even when there are prime scoring opportunities, the Yankees have failed over and over to capitalize. That was never more evident than in the final two innings of this one run defeat.
“We still had our chances, just came up a little bit short,” Manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees suffered their 12th one run loss since the All Star break.
Yankees left ten men on base and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. According to baseball-reference.com, the Yankees are batting .203 in “Late and Close” (any plate appearance where the batting team is either in a tie game, ahead by one run or have the tying run on deck during their at-bats after the seventh inning) situations.
The Yankees are missing key bats in their lineup like Anthony Rizzo and D.J. LeMahieu, but even when they were playing, the offense showed signs of being stagnant.
The Yankees were trailing 4-2 in the eighth when Aaron Judge led off with a double against Twins reliever Jorge Lopez and Gleyber Torres walked, putting runners on first and second with no one out.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was hitting in the (this is not a typo) clean up spot, forced Torres at second for the first out as Judge took third. After Marwin Gonzalez struck out swinging for the second out, Miguel Andujar walked on a 3-2 pitch but Judge scored from third on a wild pitch that got past Twins catcher (sound familiar?) Gary Sanchez. In all fairness, it was a tough pitch to block, but Sanchez will never “save” his pitcher.
Kiner-Falefa went to third and Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen for left hander Caleb Thielbar. Boone countered with Giancarlo Stanton to pinch hit for Estevan Florial. Stanton had not had much success as a pinch hitter but he put together a good at bat against Thielbar.
Stanton got behind 0-2 in the count but worked the count to 3-2. The Twins southpaw threw two fastballs that Stanton just missed.
With the tying run at third, the inconsistent Sanchez behind the plate, and the light hitting Kyle Higashioka on deck, Thielbar took a chance and threw a breaking pitch, low and away. If Stanton didn’t swing, it was a walk with a light hitter due up and not much bench strength to pinch hit at that point. It was a good game plan as Stanton swung and missed for strike three.
In the ninth, Oswald Peraza singled with one out, and Baldelli went to Michael Fulmer to close the game. Aaron Hicks, who is in the lineup out of necessity because of all the injuries, doubled into the right field corner, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Next came something that the Yankees are going to have to deal with for the remainder of the season. Without the proper protection in the lineup, teams will be intentionally walking Judge and that was case here as the Yankee slugger was sent to first base, bringing up Torres with the bases loaded and one out.
Torres got ahead 2-0 but took two strikes to even the count and then swung through a fastball from Fulmer for the second out.
Kiner-Falefa hit a grounder towards the right side between first and second. Twins second baseman Jermaine Palacios, who was shifted right near the second base bag, got to the ball and threw to first to end the game.
A controversial call at first base allowed Correa to even come to the plate in the eighth.
With one out, Jake Cave hit a little dribbler between the mound and first base. Gonzalez fielded it and flipped to pitcher Wandy Peralta, who was covering first, but he failed to secure the ball properly and the first base umpire Alex Tosi ruled that Cave was safe.
The Yankees challenged but the call stood. “I think he’s out, we gotta live with the stand. That’s how the system goes,” Boone said after the game.
Unfortunately for the Yankee Manager, he was wrong in his assessment that it was an out. Peralta, who took the loss, had the ball trapped against his body, which according to the rule book, is not a legal catch because he didn’t have full control of the ball with the glove or his hand.
After Kyle Garlick struck out, Boone went to the righty Weissert to pitch to Correa. Weissert had gotten Correa out in the first game of the doubleheader on Wednesday, but after getting ahead 1-2, he hung a slider and the Twins DH did not miss it as he put it in the left field seats for a two run lead.
Nestor Cortes made his first start in 18 days as he gave up two runs in four
innings. Boone thought he threw the ball well. “I thought he had a great pace, I thought his stuff was really good, ‘Boone said. “Thought he used both sides of the plate well. He was crusing through four innings so really encouraging to see him throw the ball like that.”
Gray went six innings and gave up two runs on seven hits and was able to keep the Yankees from scoring any additional runs, despite leaving some pitches up in the zone that were very hittable.
Now, here come the Rays who are smelling blood.
Tampa Bay will walk Judge when they need to this weekend, but they will also challenge him when they feel they’ve got the right match up. It’s going to be imperative for the other hitters to produce when Judge is sent to first base.
The Yankees’ response to this series will go a long way towards determining their fate in the American League East.