The Yankees wrapped up the first half of this disappointing 2023 season in an unfortunately appropriate manner. They suffered a deflating loss, as despite outhitting the Cubs 10-4 and getting a phenomenal outing from Domingo Germán, they lost the series finale 7-4, allowing a sub-.500 Cubs squad to take a series at Yankee Stadium. The bullpen of all units imploded late with a massive assist from shaky defense.
What otherwise would and should have been a smooth win turned into a battle of bullpens late. A particularly poorly-timed error from Gleyber Torres in the seventh opened up the door to a big inning for the Cubs. And unfortunately for the Yankees, the bullpen came up short, combining with Torres to blow a 4-1 lead before falling apart on its own in the eighth.
Ian Hamilton came in for Germán, looking to hold a three-run lead, with a man on and no one out in the seventh. After a popup and a Cody Bellinger single, Christopher Morel hit a groundball tailor-made for a double play to end the threat, but Gleyber utterly botched the play, and just like that, the bags were full.
It’s an inexcusable mistake in that situation and depressingly nothing new from Torres, who has made a litany of boneheaded plays over the past few years. There was plenty of time to turn two or at the very least to make the clean play to get one out, but he rushed it and made everything so much worse.
The Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle to try to put out the fire. Jared Young grounded out to cut the lead to 4-2 and Yan Gomes entered to pinch-hit for Patrick Wisdom. The Brazilian catcher in an 0-2 count no less, got ahold of a high heater, which wasn’t high enough, and dumped it into center, tying the game.
An inning later, after that seventh implosion, Ron Marinaccio came in for the eighth, looking to maintain the game at 4-4, and he simply did not have it. The right-hander faced three batters, all of them reached base, with the latter two via base-on-balls, and just like that, the Cubes were 90 feet from the lead, with Clay Holmes coming into an impossible situation.
Looking for grounders, Aaron Boone was aggressive and implemented a five-man infield with Oswaldo Cabrera entering the game as well. It was all for naught, as a sacrifice fly and subsequent wild pitch left the Cubs with a 6-4 lead that they would not relinquish (and in fact slightly bolster in the ninth).
With his historic night at Oakland still in recent memory, Germán bounced back after a poor start at home against Baltimore by outdueling the veteran Kyle Hendricks in this Sunday showing. It was all about the curveball for the Yankees’ starter, as he went six innings allowing but a lone hit, as Seiya Suzuki turned on one of those curves for a solo shot to lead off the fifth.
Apart from that homer, Germán’s curve was absolutely phenomenal today, earning 8 whiffs on 13 swings, on top of six called strikes, used at a 36-percent clip, the highest among all his pitches.
Working with an offense that didn’t really break through until the bottom of the sixth, Germán didn’t have much margin for error for the bulk of his outing. He was given a 1-0 lead back in the first when Anthony Rizzo drove in Torres on an RBI double, but that was it for much of the matinee.
Despite a lack of wiggle room, Germán hardly had to sweat, as it wasn’t until the sixth inning, when Patrick Wisdom stole second after a one-out walk, that the Cubs got an at-bat with a runner in scoring position. The right-hander ultimately stranded Wisdom with a Nico Hoerner strikeout.
Anthony Volpe and Kyle Higashioka combined to give Germán a 4-1 lead in the sixth. With one man on, the rookie went deep to put New York in front and Higgy launched his fifth dinger of the season to add an extra flourish:
That drove Hendricks from the game, and Germán came back out for the seventh. After a leadoff walk to Ian Happ though, Aaron Boone called the bullpen, despite his starter being only at 74 pitches, and we’ve already delved into the disaster that followed. The offense never made a serious attempt at a comeback as after a rain delay, the Yankees mostly went down quietly.
With the first half over, the Yankees sit in fourth place at 49-42, and they’re not even in playoff position at the moment. All of the Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros sit ahead of them, and no one is feeling sorry for the Yanks. Anyone is going to be affected by losing their best player, but Aaron Judge’s supporting cast has come up painfully short throughout the past month and honestly wasn’t doing much before his injury, either.
Questions will be posed about taking Germán out with a low pitch count. However, this bullpen should take care of any business covering nine outs to end the game, and the defense shouldn’t get in the way of that. After all, there is plenty of blame to go around on multiple fronts for not just this first-half finale, but for the first half as a whole.
The Yankees will be off until Friday, when they face another under-.500 National League team in the Rockies. First pitch from Coors Field will be at 8:40pm ET with Carlos Rodón expected to get the ball. Enjoy the break from feeling any sense of obligation to watch this Yankees team.