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Yankees 9, Cardinals 12: Abysmal pitching performances lead to sweep

This might have been the worst game of the season.

MLB: New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This was a tough one. The Yankees scored and scored and scored, and for the first time in what felt like two weeks, they had a real plan at the plate. However, Frankie Montas had a suboptimal debut with the Yankees and none of Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loáisiga, or Scott Effross could hold down the Cardinals in relief. To add salt on the wound, we were also subject to an all-time ump show. In the end, it was just too much for the Yankees, who lost their fifth straight game, 12-9.

We have to find some positives because there’s a real funk around this team lately, and the silver linings start with Gleyber Torres, Andrew Benintendi and Aaron Hicks all having really good games today. They had been ice-cold entering play, with Hicks hitless in his last 32 at-bats, but the 5-6-7 hitters in the lineup combined to reach base nine times, and scored six runs. This offense has been top-heavy at best, that second third of the lineup needs to be a force down the stretch, and today was a really encouraging sign that those guys might be heating up.

The Yankees also got off to a promising start, as DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a double and two batters later came around on Matt Carpenter’s sacrifice fly. It was exactly the kind of momentum-builder that the team needed over this stretch, and set up their new starter well, giving him a lead before he stepped on the field. Even after St. Louis countered, the Yankees scored three times in the top of the second to take a brief 4-1 lead.

Now, on to Frankie Montas. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Yes, because you made me sweat and no corner of my un-air-conditioned apartment was safe. This was always going to be a tough start for the newest Yankee chucker, between whatever feelings come with being traded and everything he’s dealt with in his personal life in the last week. He just joined the team last night, as well, so his prep was likely abbreviated ahead of today’s start.

The right-hander’s velo looked great, sitting comfortably at 95-96 all day, but his command, especially of the three fastballs he throws, just wasn’t what it needed to be:

Montas had best command of his sinker — you can see quite a few down and on the edges, living in that shadow zone that most hitters can’t really drive the ball out of. The cutter and the four-seam, though ... Frankie just didn’t have a handle for. There were too many easy takes out of the zone, and too many over the heart of the plate.

Amusingly enough, Montas’ best pitch was his slider, generating a 57-percent whiff rate...unfortunately he hung one of them, to the very guy you don’t want to do that to:

Nolan Arenado opened the scoring for St. Louis in the first with an RBI single, and gave the Cardinals the lead in the second with a 405-foot bomb. Montas didn’t last longer than the third, with a 3:2 K:BB ratio and nearly hitting two other batters. In short, it was not the most encouraging outing from the new starter, but there were a few externalities.

Fast-forward to the fifth, with the Yankees still down by two. The Yankees loaded the bases, again thanks to Benintendi and Hicks, giving Marwin Gonzalez a chance to cut into that deficit a bit. Except he couldn’t, because home plate umpire Ed Hickox took the bat out of his hands:

On a 3-2 count with bases loaded and nobody out, Marwin did everything right from the No. 9 hitter. He put up a good battle, took pitches that were not close, and he got rung up anyway. He threw a towel on the field from the dugout, the most obvious sign to that point that both teams were tired of Mr. Hickox.

LeMahieu followed with a bad strikeout, and that was frustrating, but we need to remember that the Yankees have Aaron Judge, and the other team does not:

Those were Judge’s third and fourth RBI of the game, tying us up at six runs apiece. I know we say this a lot, but the idea of this offense without Aaron Judge is a terrifying one. If you read my writing, you know how much faith I put in WAR, but I’m beginning to think that even WAR doesn’t do a great job of capturing how much Judge helps this team, especially without the support of Anthony Rizzo or Giancarlo Stanton at the moment.

Back to the bad stuff, Matt Carpenter came up with two men in scoring position, and we had a replay of the Marwin boondoggle:

Carpenter pulled the trigger a little early on the fourth pitch, a hanging curve, but a pair of dreadful, dreadful called third strikes decided the at-bat. Aaron Boone was tossed after the first blown strike, and pitching coach Matt Blake got ejected shortly afterward as well. The Cardinals took the lead back in the bottom half, because of course they did. A single and double off Albert Abreu made it 7-6, another RBI single and a bases-loaded walk, St. Louis went up by three.

Still, in the sixth, we had more contributions from the bottom of the order, as Jose Trevino and Gonzalez each brought in a run. Wandy Peralta kept it close, and in the eighth inning, the Yankees were down just one run, guaranteed to bring the top of the order up in the ninth.

And then, well, Scott Effross...

Paul DeJong went like, 17-for-15 this series. I know that is not possible. I do not care what his actual production was. It felt like 17-for-15, and the last hit, a three-run blast, was the dagger today. As if we had not been tormented enough this weekend, LeMahieu hit a solo bomb of his own in the top of the ninth. Predetermined outcome, yadda yadda, but a solo shot down one is much nicer than down four.

This weekend stunk. The Yankees stink right now. They’ve lost 16 of their last 25 games, the division lead is below double digits for the first time since June 15th, and with the deadline past, and there’s no cavalry coming. (That includes Triple-A, as Oswald Peraza was even plunked today, adding injury to insult; X-rays came back negative). The team simply has to play better — the offense can’t go into a deep freeze for ten days and refuse to help solid pitching. The pitching can’t completely collapse on days where the bats are alive.

A nice, easy, blowout win over Seattle tomorrow would be the start of a course correction, with Jameson Taillon scheduled to get the ball. It’s out West, so it’s a 10:10pm Eastern first pitch. See you then.

Box Score