For a team that didn’t lose all that much, the Yankees sure took part in their fair share of frustration this season. Between tough injuries and deflating losses to teams they should beat, the Yankees mixed a solid amount of heartbreak into an otherwise excellent year of baseball.
What were the most crushing losses, the ones that will leave us wincing years into the future? Let’s take a look:
This was one of the most frustrating Yankee losses in recent memory, as there was more to it than just a loss in the standings. This game caused a firestorm, as Gary Sanchez’s apparent lack of hustle became a national story.
Early in the game, Sanchez let a pitch from Luis Severino get by him, and he didn’t get to the ball quick enough. That allowed Jake Bauers to score all the way from second. This, however, was just the tip of the iceberg.
The Yankees fell behind 7-3, but launched a comeback in the later innings. Didi Gregorius grounded out for an RBI in the seventh, and Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single that plated two, slicing the lead to 7-6.
That score held into the ninth inning. The Rays attempted to close out the game with Jose Alvarado, who yielded a quick single and walk to put two on and none out. A sacrifice bunt and intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, with Aaron Hicks and Sanchez looming. The Yankees had every chance to punctuate a dramatic comeback win.
Instead, Hicks grounded out, and Sanchez did as well, running almost comically slowly on a ball that he could have easily beaten out at anything close to full speed. Yankees fans obviously came down hard on Sanchez, ripping him for being “lazy” and costing the Bombers a game with his sloth.
Sanchez, who had just returned from a groin injury, then went on the disabled list again for over a month. As much as his lack of hustle stuck out in this game, it very well may have been because Sanchez was still smarting from his groin ailment. Even so, seeing Sanchez jog to first when a sprint would have tied the game left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Sanchez getting hurt again added injury to insult.
This is the game that effectively extinguished the Yankees’ division hopes. A win in the final game of the four-game set in Boston would have prevented a sweep and left the Yankees with a slim chance, 7.5 games behind the Red Sox and six back in the loss column. The defeat stranded the Yankees a distant 9.5 games back, and they never really challenged for the AL East the rest of the way.
More than that, the Yankees lost in excruciating fashion to cap a deflating series. They entered the bottom of the ninth inning leading 4-1, and Aroldis Chapman struck out Brock Holt to lead off, bringing the Yankees’ win probability to 98% per Baseball Reference. Chapman walked the next two batters, then struck out Andrew Benintendi to put the Yankees one out away from a much-needed road win.
He just couldn’t close it out. Chapman walked Steve Pearce, then allowed a single by J.D. Martinez to narrow the lead to 4-3. After all that, the Yankees still had every chance to win when Xander Bogaerts grounded the ball to Miguel Andujar. The third baseman, somewhat unsurprisingly, left the throw in the dirt, allowing Bogaerts to reach and the tying run to score.
Jonathan Holder came on for the bottom of the tenth, and actually retired the first two batters, before the game quickly came to an end. A single, wild pitch, intentional walk, and walk-off single from Benintendi gave the Red Sox the win and thrust a dagger into the Yankees’ AL East hopes. That this all played out on a nationally-televised Sunday night game on ESPN, slowly and painfully over the course of hours, only added to the heartbreak. It was the Yankees’ worst loss of the regular season.
This was always going to be number one on the list. This game, the Yankees’ last of the season, had everything. It had every possible aspect of heartbreak. It included a mind-numbing managerial decision. It had fluke happenings like a Christian Vazquez home run providing the margin of victory. And of course, it had that near-ninth inning comeback.
The Yankees had Craig Kimbrel on the ropes. They entered the ninth down 4-1, but immediately put two on. Stanton struck out in an ugly at-bat, flailing wildly twice at pitches way out of the zone, marking the first instance of frustration in the ninth.
A walk to Luke Voit and a hit-by-pitch to Neil Walker forced in a run and left the bases loaded. Kimbrel was clearly laboring, and with such a weak relief corps left behind him, the Red Sox had little choice but to leave him in and see if he could clean up the mess he made. The crowd was roaring, ready to explode after a long night of frustration, ready to pour it all on the Red Sox, who were about to blow the game and let the Yankees off the mat and back into the series.
Then Sanchez nearly had the at-bat of the season. He worked an 0-2 count full, got a fastball to hit from Kimbrel, and just missed it. Sanchez hit the ball at 107 mph, but got under it, and his magnificent fly ball fell at the warning track, forcing in a run. Off the bat, it looked like he might have had it, like Sanchez might have erased the memory of a down year for with one historic swing.
Instead, a sacrifice fly, leading to everyone finding out at once that Gleyber Torres isn’t actually that fast, as the rookie grounded out to Eduardo Nunez to end the game, a ruling that was upheld by replay review in one last twist of the knife in the heart. What a way to end the season — in full-on heartbreaking fashion.