If the Yankees were what we thought they were going to be, a 95ish-win team in contention for the AL East, this kind of game wouldn’t be a problem. New York went on the road and took the first two games against the Pirates before dropping the finale — hey, we won the series, pat yourselves on the back and get on the plane.
But for a team that is at least ostensibly hoping against hope to somehow, someway make an utterly miraculous postseason run with two weeks out, this was a series they needed to sweep. If you’re clinging to the mathematical improbability that the Yankees just need to win X more games while their Wild Card rivals lost a combined Y number of games, failing to sweep Pittsburgh should put paid to those thoughts.
Carlos Rodón had arguably the best start of his Yankee career today. Ten strikeouts represented a season high, he didn’t walk a single batter, and touched 100 on the gun. Crucially in his 104-pitch effort, he worked his curve and change effectively late in the count, with a 50 percent CSW% presenting a third viable weapon when his fastball-slider combo has become a little predictable at times.
Still, Rodón was charged with three runs and the loss, in a pretty hard-luck day.
Miguel Andújar took that 97-mph fastball 370 feet down the right field line, and the Pirates took the late lead on what could, or perhaps should, have been a routine grounder to third:
A little assist from the bag never hurt anybody pic.twitter.com/t2a5xtrfyx— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 17, 2023
That pitch to Jason Delay was the last Rodón would throw on the day, and if the bag was an inch further right or left, might have gotten out of the inning unscathed with the score 2-2. That’s not the way the ball bounced today, though. Despite his stuff looking great, and the things we tend to focus on as existing within the pitcher’s control, Carlos took the loss today. Twenty starts like today’s next year, though, and nobody will be complaining about his contract.
As has so often been the case this year though, the performance of the starter was largely irrelevant when the lineup mustered a paltry four hits. DJ LeMahieu continued his strong home stretch with an RBI double to get the Yankees on the board in the sixth, and down a run an inning later, Anthony Volpe tied it up for the moment with his 21st long ball:
After that, the only time the club threatened was when Austin Wells had a one-out double in the ninth, only for Volpe and Oswald Peraza to strike out, ending the threat, game, and further cementing the fact that this team is not a playoff team.
I also am beginning to be completely convinced thatGiancarlo Stanton is cooked, in a very 2022-23 Josh Donaldson way. As he continues to wade through the worst season of him MLB career, he’s begun to look overmatched time and again, occasionally running into a mistake but otherwise flailing even more than when he would in his cold streaks. Yes, David Bednar is a great closer, but if you’re going to be batting cleanup you need to have more of a plan than Stanton seemed to take leading off the ninth inning.
The Yankees are off tomorrow before starting their first of two series with the Blue Jays in consecutive weeks on Tuesday in the Bronx at 7:05pm ET. They have the guys you want on the mound — Clarke Schmidt, Michael King and Gerrit Cole have all been announced as the starters. This is not a playoff team, but maybe they can play spoiler against a Toronto ballclub that has been haunted by inconsistent play during its own Wild Card bid.