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Yankees 0, Braves 2: Down bad

Yankees swept in Atlanta, slip to below .500.

MLB: New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees fell to Atlanta 2-0 in a fast-moving game on Wednesday night, putting them at 60-61 on the season and, for the first time since 2021, below .500. Rookie Randy Vásquez gave a valiant effort, and Michael King was fantastic out of the bullpen, but the offensive woes continued across the board. They mustered just four hits — all singles — off of Charlie Morton, and despite the 2-0 margin, it almost felt like they were out of it from the moment Atlanta took the lead. They’re now a full seven games back of a Wild Card slot, pending the results of other games around the league.

As has been the case all week, Atlanta struck first after a quiet first inning on both sides, pouncing on a low-nineties fastballs from Vásquez that just didn’t seem to have a ton of zip to them tonight. First, Marcell Ozuna got one that he liked enough to rocket over Giancarlo Stanton’s head for a double to the right-center field wall, and then, the notoriously free-swinging Eddie Rosario did this to a fastball that Vásquez probably shouldn’t have thrown to a guy who’s a 50/50 shot to swing on 0-0.

A two-run homer in the second inning shouldn’t feel particularly crushing, but it sure did tonight, given how the last few weeks have gone. Charlie Morton was in vintage form from the outset, and while the Yankees managed to threaten a couple times in the early innings, most notably when they put two on with one out in the fourth, the veteran righty was able to strike his way out of trouble more or less every time it presented itself. He tied his season high with 10 strikeouts through six innings of shutout ball, scattering four hits and walking just one, even though he wasn’t exactly nailing his spots. It’s only the third time this year that Morton’s worked through six without a run, and if there’s one thing the rest of the league doesn’t need, it’s Charlie Morton getting hot down the stretch on top of everything else that’s going right for the Braves.

Vásquez recovered enough to keep Atlanta off the board for the rest of his time in the game, but with three walks through 3.1 innings, nobody outside of Cobb County was chomping at the bit to let him see Atlanta’s lineup for a third time. Michael Kay and David Cone spent much of the broadcast discussing Michael King’s professed desire to be given another chance at starting, and we might have gotten a preview of it tonight. Entering the game with one out in the fourth inning, King worked a fantastic 3.2 innings of scoreless relief, holding this frightening offense to just a single hit and striking them out three times. King’s velocity held up well into his fourth inning of work, and he flashed a starter’s arsenal, doing an excellent job of mixing in effective changeups along with his typically dominant sinker/sweeper combo.

Pierce Johnson came on in relief for Atlanta and proceeded to deliver his tenth scoreless appearance in ten tries since coming over from Colorado, followed immediately by another effective journeyman reliever — this time Kirby Yates — doing the same. None of the Yankees hitters put up much of a fight; none were even particularly close to reaching base in the late innings. Just an entirely dead effort. Both Johnson and Yates retired the side in order, and between them and King’s efficient showing on the hill, we were into the bottom of the eighth before the game was even two hours old. Keynan Middleton relieved King for his sixth appearance as a Yankee, and he made it five of six scoreless outings with an easy 1-2-3 eighth.

If the last couple paragraphs feel light on description, it’s because “1-2-3” is the best way you can describe most of this game. After Austin Riley singled against King with one out in the sixth inning, both sides combined to record 14 consecutive outs heading into the ninth inning, when Raisel Iglesias took the ball for Atlanta looking for his 23rd save in 25 chances. Aaron Judge greeted him with an absolutely hammered fly ball that looked like it would get the Yankees on the board, but wound up hooking outside the foul poll for a long strike. Judge proceeded to punch out, making it 13 on the night for the Bombers in total.

That foul ball was as exciting as it got. Iglesias retired the next two hitters without issue, and that was the ballgame, completed in just two hours and eight minutes. Atlanta outscored their visitors a whopping 18-3 over the course of the series, and the Yankees will finish their nine-game road trip with a brutal 2-7 record, sinking them to below .500 this late in the season for the first time in 1995. Things are bleak, and the Yankees — their offense in particular — will have some time to reflect on it, taking the day off tomorrow to travel back to New York, where they’ll host the Red Sox for a three-gamer this weekend.