After a month of mediocre baseball, the Yankees find themselves caught in a downward spiral. Over the last four days, the club has been outplayed in every aspect of the game. They got embarrassed by the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, then absolutely walloped by the Red Sox. This stands out as a pathetic stretch of 2013 proportions.
With each passing inning, the team found new ways to humiliate themselves. At no real point did they seem capable of turning their fortune around. It’s difficult to process how poorly the Yankees have played of late. In an attempt to make some sense of this stretch, I’m going to point out five episodes that highlight (lowlight?) the tailspin. They’re listed in chronological order, and doctors warn they’re bad for your blood pressure.
Sonny Gray’s shelling
Fresh off three serviceable starts, Sonny Gray took the mound at Yankee Stadium to face off against the recently dismantled Orioles’ lineup. Instead of carving up the equivalent of a Triple-A squad, he got rocked to the tune of seven runs in 2.2 innings.
That doesn’t paint a complete picture, though. Gray worked a quick first inning! He then got pummeled for five runs in the second, then two more in the third. Now, Shane Robinson did Gray no favors with his defense. Still, the onus falls squarely on a pitcher who lost the benefit of the doubt about a dozen clunkers ago.
It also didn’t help that as Gray departed from the mound, to the sound of a chorus of boos, he sported a wide smile. I actually feel for him, as I’m a nervous smiler myself. Nonetheless, the picture circulated and Yankees fans lost their collective cool over it.
sonny gray: *smiles while being booed*— liz (@nyyciufo) August 1, 2018
all of yankees twitter: *has a meltdown* pic.twitter.com/ZANN4bqPsd
Gray’s start and exit smile set a tone. The Yankees are still reeling from it, and the fanbase hasn’t received anything to suggest a turnaround is forthcoming.
Jonathan Holder’s implosion
There are few scenes in baseball as cringeworthy as a manager hanging a pitcher out to dry. That’s what happened to Jonathan Holder on Thursday night. The right-hander came in to relieve CC Sabathia in the bottom of the fourth inning. He faced seven batters, allowing all to reach base safely.
Holder allowed seven runs on five hits and a walk. Aaron Boone tried to preserve the bullpen by keeping the right-hander in as long as possible. The Yankees manager reached his breaking point after an Eduardo Nunez RBI double. Holder entered the game with a 2.06 ERA, and left with a 3.50 mark. Give him some credit. He flamed out in spectacular fashion.
Steve Pearce’s home run barrage
Here’s a fun fact: Steve Pearce briefly played for the Yankees in 2012.
On September 25, 2012, after 12 games and 25 at-bats. the Yankees designated Steve Pearce—aka Pearcy—for assignment.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) August 3, 2018
They’ve been paying for it ever since.
While his short-lived stint in pinstripes was unproductive — .601 OPS in 27 plate appearances — you could make the case it was a brilliant move to have him on the roster. Why? Because he absolutely torments the Yankees. Pearce owns a career .294/.388/.589 batting line against the Bombers with 14 home runs. He just kills them.
Pearce continued that trend during this series. So far he’s had a three home run game on Thursday, and another dinger to boot on Friday. All of them cleared the Green Monster. It’s as if if he can send a pitch out into the parking lot on command. I am very okay with the Yankees never pitching to him ever again.
Rick Porcello’s one-hitter
On Friday night, Rick Porcello completely dominated the Yankees’ lineup. He tossed a one-hitter on just 86 pitches! Save for a Miguel Andujar solo home run, the Bombers had no answer for the Red Sox right-hander.
Sure, Porcello won the Cy Young Award in 2016. He has some track record of success. The Yankees showed no resistance, though. There were no long counts. At no point in the game did Porcello throw a stressful pitch; he overwhelmed a lineup on autopilot. He even retired the final 21 batters he faced. Keep in mind he entered the game with a 4.03 ERA (3.72 FIP).
“I don’t know why I pitch better against the Yankees than other teams,” Porcello told members of the media. “I can’t really explain it.” It would be helpful if he did break it down. I’m not sure the Yankees will be able to hit him otherwise.
Nathan Eovaldi’s revenge
Confession time: I had no interest in a reunion with Nathan Eovaldi at the trade deadline. He was, at best, serviceable during his run in pinstripes. The right-hander tossed 279 innings of 4.45 ERA (4.11 FIP) ball for New York. He threw hard, but his stuff got barreled more than one would believe. He should have been good, but never was. I’ve seen that movie before. Pass.
When the Red Sox landed him, however, I couldn’t help but cringe. I knew a game like this was coming. It seemed a fait accompli that Eovaldi would stifle his former team in a huge situation down the stretch. That outing just happened to come yesterday.
Eovaldi blanked the Yankees for eight innings, allowing just three hits in the process. Like Porcello, he was ruthlessly efficient. His newfound cutter jammed batters and generated a bunch of easy outs.
“They’ve done a really good job the last two days, both Eovaldi and Porcello, of attacking the strike zone early, getting ahead in the count a lot,” Boone explained to reporters after the game. “So that makes it difficult when they’re dictating counts to really run deep counts.”
Nasty Nate dominated, and all but shattered the Yankees’ division hopes.