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Late rally comes up short as Yankees fall to the Phillies, 11-7

J.A. Happ was bad, but the bullpen was worse, and the winning streak is over

MLB: Game One-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

I was hoping the Yankees would have their home jerseys on for the first game – they were, after all, ostensibly the home team. Instead, the squad was bedecked in their road grays. Whether the confusion over the home/visitor status affected the players’ headspace or not, they lost their second game of 2020, 11-7 to the Phillies.

Offensively, the Yankees were just dandy early, although perhaps could have cashed in a little more. In the first inning, a Jean Segura error followed by a walk loaded the bases with nobody out for Gleyber Torres. The Yankees’ shortstop grounded into a double play that wasn’t booted by the Phillies defense, bringing in the first run of the game. The next inning, Brett Gardner homered to the pull side this time, yanking the ball over the right field seats to put the Yankees up 3-0.

Now…let’s talk about J.A. Happ.

Sometimes you can struggle with command, which is hitting your spots. Then you can struggle with control, which is the ability to throw strikes. They’re related, but not quite the same. Happ didn’t really have either working today, walking six Phillies – including one with the bases loaded for Philadelphia’s third run – against just a single strikeout.

I’m not going to hold Bryce Harper’s home run against Happ, because Harper is an excellent power hitter. The location problems persist and that I will hold against him, and it’s hard to imagine that he’s one of the five best starters the Yankees have access to right now. There are roster and logistical issues to replacing him, but in a short season, the Yankees can’t really let this kind of performance continue.

Jonathan Holder took over and pitched a fine fourth, followed by Nick Nelson in the fifth. After a very nice MLB debut on Saturday, Nelson was introduced to arguably baseball’s best catcher, as J.T. Realmuto took him long and gone to put Philadelphia up two. The rest of Nelson’s day was a similar struggle, as the rookie showed his newbie status. While he finished the fifth without problems, the sixth was a nightmare of an inning.

A pair of hits in the sixth, with a walk, loaded the bases and allowed Rhys Hoskins to add those dreaded tack-on runs. A poorly timed, rare, throwing mistake from LeMahieu plated another two runs, and Realmuto singled home one more. All told, the Yankees headed to the hitting half of the sixth down 11-3 as Philly batted around, and then some.

The Yankees did make it a little more interesting late, as Thairo Estrada singled in a run in a pinch hit appearance, so praise be Peter B. Next up was Aaron Judge, who did exactly what you would expect:

Unfortunately that was about as good as it would get. The team did get the tying run in the on-deck circle, but the hole dug by the pitching staff was just too big to pull out of.

These games happen, the Yankees were going to lose again sometime before the end of the year. The offense was forced to play catch up most of the game, Happ is the team’s worst starter, and Nelson is a rookie. Most games, with most pitching, seven runs will deliver a win. That just didn’t happen today. The Yankees head into game two of this doubleheader now tied with the Colorado Rockies for the third-best record in baseball at 8-2, with a chance to tie the Cubs and Twins atop the league.