Yankees 2, Rangers 4: Sloppy defense, AWOL offense spoil Schmidt’s strong start

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When it rains, it pours. On a day when the Yankees received one of Clarke Schmidt’s best starts of the season, the offense could get little going, with mental errors in the field exacerbating the punchless bats. You can only hold down the top-scoring offense in baseball for so long, and that tipping point came in the 10th as the Rangers took the series opener, 4-2.

Schmidt had to expend a tremendous amount of energy to make it through the first two innings. A pair reached in the first on a single and and strikeout wild pitch that should have been ruled a passed ball on Trevino, but a Josh Jung fly out ended the threat. Then in the second, a Robbie Grossman double and Ezequiel Duran single put runners on the corners with one out, but once again Schmidt navigated out of the jam, the only casualty being his elevated pitch count at 46.

The Yankees managed some traffic in each of the first three innings, but double plays in the first and third erased those baserunners. They did manage to cash in a runner in the second as Anthony Rizzo led off with his 211th career hit-by-pitch. DJ LeMahieu then lasered a hanging slider for a 106.7-mph double to right, an encouraging sign as he works on some mechanical adjustments to break out of his slump. Billy McKinney tapped a grounder to third to plate Rizzo to open the evening’s scoring.

When you’re a team struggling to put up runs, the general refrains goes that you have to ace the fundamentals and do all the little things right. Conversely, Murphy’s Law states that ‘anything that can go wrong, will.’ Apparently, the Yankees only got the second memo. In the fourth inning following a Duran single, Leody Taveras popped up into medium center field. However, neither Anthony Volpe nor Isiah Kiner-Falefa fully sprinted to the ball, and it dropped between them, allowing Duran to score the tying run, 1-1.

An inning later, IKF led off with a single, attempted a steal of second, but then did this:

It’s starting to feel like a broken record at this point — Schmidt has little difficulty pushing counts to two strikes, but struggles immensely to put away batters efficiently from that point forward. Far too many times in advantageous counts, Schmidt either sprayed uncompetitive breaking balls or missed his spots with hangers that leaked middle-middle.

In fairness, though, Schmidt found his groove starting in the third and ended up giving the Yankees 5.1 strong innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits and a walk with three strikeouts on 91 pitches (and that one run scored on the defensive miscue). That’s now seven straight start limiting his opponents to three or fewer runs, certainly a boon for the rotation given the injury absences and inconsistent performances by everyone not named Gerrit Cole.

Jimmy Cordero got the final two outs of the sixth and Wandy Peralta pitched a scoreless seventh, prompting Aaron Boone to turn to Clay Holmes for the eighth. He was far from his sharpest, surrendering a double to Jung and a ground-ball single to Mitch Garver, allowing Texas to grab their first lead of the contest, 2-1.

The Bomber offense showed the faintest glimmer of life in the eighth, with IKF and McKinney lining back-to-back singles to open the frame, putting runners on the corners for Trevino. Boone initially called on Oswaldo Cabrera to pinch-hit, but after Bruce Bochy went to the lefty out of the ‘pen, Boone opted for Kyle Higashioka instead. The decision paid off, as Higashioka lifted a sac fly to left-center to re-level the scores, 2-2.

After quick ninths from either side, this game was headed for extra innings. Mercifully, the Rangers did not prolong the ordeal as Adolis García smoked a first-pitch hanging sweeper from Michael King into the seats in left to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead, making it five of his last six appearances that King has surrendered a run. The Yankees went quietly in the bottom half to drop the series opener, 4-2. (The fans at least got to vent some frustration when Josh Donaldson pinch-hit for McKinney in the 10th and struck out; fellow slumper Giancarlo Stanton really heard it throughout the night, too.)

Holding the highest-scoring offense in baseball to two runs in regulation was an admirable feat, but sooner or later they were going to break through and the Yankees offense just couldn’t get it done. Luis Severino will look to match the success of today’s starter facing Jon Gray tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 pm ET so be sure to join us in the game thread to see if the offense actually wants to wake up this time.

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