This really felt like a June game. Although the Yankees did have some bright moments on offense and the bullpen was strong, they just couldn’t do quite enough at the plate, hit into 1,475 (actually five) double plays, and Jameson Taillon fell apart the second time through the order. All told, the Yankees lost their fourth straight game, 6-4.
The Yankees actually had a fair amount of traffic in the first couple of innings, though a pair of double plays snuffed out any chances of scoring. Anthony Rizzo stepped up and ended the early plague of ground balls in the forth:
This is a weird one. Statcast assigned it a .260 xBA, I thought Juan Lagares mistimed his jump. I didn’t even know that the scoreboard was now considered out of play at Angel Stadium. Still, it counts, and the Yankees were up 1-0. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton continued their white-hot Augusts with consecutive hits, but — and you’re never gonna believe this — Joey Gallo grounded into a double play, continuing his recent inexplicable bad luck on twin-killings.
Unfortunately, while Taillon was outstanding his first three innings, he struggled mightily in the fourth. The first two Angels reached base before No. 3 hitter Phil Gosselin inexplicably tried a sac bunt for the first out. Jared Walsh then did the sensible thing and hit the ball over the fence on a truly, truly awful 0-2 curveball:
I said in the game thread that two pitchers struggling in August had the potential for some fireworks, and the home run derby continued in the top of the fifth:
Taillon ran into more problems as the Angels lineup turned over a third time. The first two hitters reached before Rizzo made a sterling play on a David Fletcher line drive that would have scored at least a run. Shohei Ohtani was intentionally walked (a no-brainer), and Taillon was given one more hitter to get: the bunter, Gosselin. The Angel won this time around, singling up the middle and making it 5-2.
That was it for Taillon, throwing 92 pitches in under five innings of work. It’s his fourth straight bad start, and perhaps the surest sign yet that his 131.2 innings this season after spending most of the past two years on the shelf are taking their toll, post-Tommy John surgery. He looks gassed.
Shohei Ohtani stole home against Joely Rodríguez after Taillon was yanked, which was pretty cool, although a good throw from the shortstop covering the bag probably has him DOA. Oh well, that made it 6-2 Angels after five. Don’t worry though, the Yankees grounded into two more double plays afterward. At least, I think it was two, but honestly I kind of zoned out, so it might have been like, eight.
Perhaps the crowning moment in this game of drones came in the seventh. Gio Urshela doubled and Rougned Odor was hit by a pitch, a shade of luck in a game the Yankees didn’t have much. With one out, down by four, the Yankees had Luke Voit on the bench. Luke Voit led the majors in home runs last year. A home run would put the Yankees down just one with eight outs to go, no big deal when the top of the lineup was guaranteed to hit again.
Instead, Brett Gardner grounded into a double play. I get it: There’s no way to say that Voit, for sure, without a doubt, would have had a better outcome. But you’re playing percentages, and an extra-base hit is what you need in that spot, not a slapped single. And it was so perfect, such an object example of why the administration of this team can be so frustrating at times — there just isn’t a sense of urgency.
Yes, Gardner in the outfield is a plus. But that plus goes away pretty much the moment the Yankees are down multiple runs. It is worth accepting a slightly less optimal defense in the last two innings in exchange for a much better chance at a game-changing hit. But, no urgency.
And y’know what! The Yankees scored two more runs in the eighth, off a Judge single and Stanton sac fly. Voit ended up getting into the game by pinch-hitting for Odor, and he went down swinging as the go-ahead run to end the Yankees’ last real threat. You can view this as proof that the Gardner decision doesn’t matter, and sure, if Voit was going to strike out anyway, okay. But the Judge and Stanton at bats are pretty pertinent to the previous call — the top of the Yankee order is deadly, and you’d rather them come up while trailing by one or two runs, rather than four.
The Yankees ended up going to Voit in a high-leverage spot, sure, but it was after the big bats had done damage. By moving Voit out in front of the top of the lineup, you increase the odds that a very good top four can tie or take the lead, rather than just chip away and hope the bottom — by definition, lesser — hitters get the big hit. But then again, Luke Voit struck out in that pinch-hit appearance so, baseball is weird and silly and sometimes it doesn’t matter what call you make.
Raisel Iglesias retired all three Yankees he faced — striking out Gardner to boot — putting the game on ice: Angels 6, Yankees 4. The team has now lost four in a row, and suddenly sits eight back of the Rays for the AL East title. The Wild Card has to be the focus of the club now, and they can solidify their standing in that table by salvaging the final game of this series tomorrow. Gerrit Cole gets the start, and East Coasters get a normal start time, with first pitch at 7:07pm Eastern.