This was a game of contradictions. Gerrit Cole, the strikeout king, lived off groundouts while Patrick Sandoval engineered whiffs. The Yankees’ defense shone early before giving away the lead in the sixth. And in a series that solidified, if not cemented, Aaron Judge’s AL MVP case, Shohei Ohtani had the biggest hit, a three-run bomb that put the Angels on top for good. In the end, the Yankees lost 3-2 to a team closer to the worst record in baseball than a playoff spot. It was their fourth such loss, two apiece to the Angels and A’s to close out this terrible West Coast trip and even more dismal August.
I wish I knew what the prescription for this team was. I wish I knew why nobody other than Aaron Judge can seemingly make anything happen offensively. The guys trusted for power, like Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson, can’t provide it. The guys trusted to get on base, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, DJ LeMahieu, and Andrew Benintendi, went 0-10 with a single walk. Let’s try and get through this recap, folks.
Like I said, there were some legitimately great defensive plays. Donaldson had a heck of a throw from third — perhaps foreshadowing or irony given what happened later, but I don’t know for sure — and Aaron Hicks had probably the finest play of his tough season:
For what little it’s worth now, the team did get out to a 2-0 lead, while Cole blanked the Angels through the first five. Donaldson was the beneficiary of a weird bounce, as his batted ball ricocheted off David Fletcher into left for a double. A wild pitch moved him to third, and Gleyber Torres made the trip home easy:
Jose Trevino moved ‘em over, before Hicks brought ‘em in with a sac fly, giving the Yankees a crooked number in the fifth inning.
Then came the sixth, when the bad things happened.
Cole had posted a solid, but odd start, with just two strikeouts in the first five, but outside of Ohtani’s ball to the warning track he hadn’t really been in major trouble all night. Fletcher got some of his luck back, hitting a ball to Donaldson that would have been a tough play no matter what, but Donaldson’s wild throw made that a certainty and Fletcher advanced to second anyway.
With one out, Cole got a weak ground ball from Mike Trout to Kiner-Falefa, the alleged solid defensive shortstop who’s an upgrade over any possible other options in the entire organization. IKF
fielded the ball cleanly and made the play for the out muffed it, putting two men on on the second straight error, and with Ohtani coming to the plate.
Clay Holmes continued his strong return, facing 1-2-3 in LA’s order and sitting them down without incident, K’ing Fletcher and Ohtani. In series like this, you need to find something to be positive about, and Jonathan Loáisiga and Clay Holmes returning to form might end up being the brightest silver lining.
Still, as bad as this recap sounds, the Yankees were only down a single run. I thought Aaron Boone should have pinch-hit Oswaldo Cabrera for either IKF or Hicks in the eighth inning, but Boone decided to save the rookie for the ninth, where Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both walked to start the frame.
After that, it was a microcosm of the problem plaguing this offense for so long. If the two big stars can’t get the big hit, nobody can. Both Donaldson and Torres went down swinging, and then it was Cabrera’s turn. He bounced out harmlessly to first to end the game.
This West Coast trip sucked. The Yankees went 3-4 against two teams that they could very well have swept, and should have lost no more than twice. August has been a month of hell for this club — its worst since 1991 — and hopefully with the calendar turning, so will the tide of the Yankees.
New York gets an offday tomorrow and takes on the Rays in Tampa starting Friday, so it does not get easier from here, particularly since their old 15.5-game AL East lead is the smallest it’s been since June 3rd. Tampa made up nine games in August alone and is nearly breathing down the Yankees’ necks at six back with this Trop series looming. Domingo Germán gets the ball in a 7:10pm Eastern start down in Florida.