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Yankees 4, Nationals 11: Bullpen struggles again in weird game from start to finish

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For the second day in a row, the bullpen got its doors blown off in an otherwise-tight contest.

Washington Nationals v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

From the word go, the Yankees and Nationals embarked on a truly strange game. Jameson Taillon started against Patrick Corbin, and the two locked horns in a decent pitching showdown until the Yankees’ bullpen uncharacteristically imploded for the second game in a row in an 11-4 loss.

On the third pitch he saw to lead off the bottom half of the first inning, DJ LeMahieu did something that he hadn’t done once this year. He took advantage of Yankee Stadium’s obscenely short right-field porch to the same effect that he had over his past two seasons in the Bronx — campaigns that concluded in back-to-back top-four American League MVP finishes. With a 343-foot porch job, LeMahieu parked the 10th-shortest homer of the year into the bleachers.

In the very next half-inning, Taillon immediately returned any momentum the Yankees had earned, surrendering a much louder, but equally-valuable Monument Park solo shot to the Nationals’ first baseman, Josh Bell, on an 0-1 fastball.

Then, with one out, Taillon walked Kyle Schwarber before grooving a 2-0 fastball to Yan Gomes, one that he banged out into the left-field bleachers to give the Nats a 3-1 lead.

Cutting the Yankee deficit to just one, Gary Sánchez barreled a baseball for the first time since the second day of the season.

Reversing course, Taillon eschewed his four-seamer to feed the Nats hitters a diet chock-full of breaking balls. After allowing the homer to Gomes, Taillon went on to retire the next 14 batters he faced, then allowed a single and exited with both 6.1 innings pitched and a quality start to his name.

DJ returned fire with his second solo shot of the game, knotting the score at three apiece. While it wasn’t quite a no-doubter, he got just four more feet of distance on this one:

After six innings, the contest turned into a three-inning affair. Wandy Peralta relieved Taillon to keep the game tied and finished the seventh without allowing a run to score. The Yankees failed to score in home half, but seemed poised for victory, given the level of dominance the bullpen had achieved to this point in the season (Thursday afternoon notwithstanding).

However, in the eighth, the Yankees’ hopes of winning all came crashing down due to a series of characteristic and uncharacteristic blunders. Jonathan Loaisiga, who had been arguably the Yankees’ second-best reliever to this point in the season, allowed a mere single.

Nothing to sweat yet, right? Wrong.

After fielding a Victor Robles bunt, LeMahieu — a three-time Gold Glove winner and hero of the earlier part of the ballgame — made a throw that pulled Tyler Wade off first base, leaving runners on the corners with no outs. Loaisiga surrendered another single, this time to Trea Turner, giving the Nats the lead.

From there, the wheels came off as Josh Harrison homered on a sinker at his eyes, giving the Nats a 7-3 lead.

Still with no outs, Juan Soto singled, sparking the Nationals’ second rally of the inning. Luis Cessa, who’d been almost as solid as Loaisiga, came on to relieve him, but fared no better, walking ex-Yankee Starlin Castro and allowing a single to Kyle Schwarber. Judge’s bobble in the outfield scored Soto and left men on second and third. Afterwards, Gleyber Torres mismanaged a chopper with the infield in, allowing another run to score. Finally, Cessa retired the next two batters to hemorrhage the wound.

Things went from bad, to worse, to worst after the nightmare eighth, as Cessa walked a man before Juan Soto took him very deep to dead centerfield to make it an 11-3 ballgame.

While the Yankees scratched once in the ninth, it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the late-inning implosion by the usually-stalwart bullpen.

Aside from the obvious misfirings, the club’s performance contained a couple of silver linings. Sánchez appeared relatively comfortable at the plate after spending almost the entire season to date looking anything but. Perhaps more impressive than the hanging slider he crushed to left was the elevated fastball that he sent out to center for a loud fly out in the ninth. At his best, Gary crushed fastballs, something he’s struggled to do as he’s slumped through the better part of the last two seasons.

Taillon’s mid-outing turnaround was possibly his most impressive feat of the season. By finding a way to improve as he went on, Jamo gave the Yankees a chance to hang in a game that looked like a lost cause early. Also, while this was one for LeMahieu to forget defensively, he sorely needed this night at the plate, as the Yankees can‘t sniff the heights they’d like to reach unless he’s one of their key offensive contributors.

Finally, despite earning just a measly single on the evening, Clint Frazier struck four balls at least 99.5 mph and made one of the best catches of his career. If he continues to play the field like a Gold Glove candidate and hit the ball as hard as he did today, his luck will turn, and so too will the Yankees’.

Unfortunately, this still marks back-to-back losses for the Yankees and a return to .500. They’ll have to beat Max Scherzer tomorrow behind Corey Kluber if they want to avoid falling back under. The matinee matchup begins at 1:05pm ET.

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