Day starts badly and ends similar
THERE was probably a way Saturday could have gone worse for the Yankees. But it would have taken cruelty and creativity to come up with it.
In less than 24 hours they went from arguably their most thrilling victory of the season Friday night against the Red Sox to a Saturday that had all the charm of a Walking Dead script.
Before a pitch was thrown, Masahiro Tanaka joined CC Sabathia on the disabled list, placed there with an inflamed shoulder. Then, while the Red Sox were taking batting practice, Jordan Montgomery was signing autographs down the right-field line protected by a net and yet somehow took a line drive off his right ear
He called it a “freak accident” and “a million-to-one-thing,” but that was the kind of day it was for the Yankees.
And then the game began and to make the rotation misery all the worse Luis Severino had his worst start of 2017.
Want some good news? Montgomery came through testing fine and the Yankees announced that he would still start Sunday night. The bad news? That would be versus Chris Sale, who generally makes the Yanks look like they should be playing in Williamsport, not The Bronx. This season, for example, the lefty has overwhelmed the Yankees with 23 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings and just two earned runs allowed.
That put a premium on the Yankees carrying the good vibes of Friday into Saturday. But those good vibes stretched only two innings.
What followed was bad pitching, poor defense and hollow at-bats. The final score was 10-5. That it happened against the rival Red Sox only made the bad day worse.
The AL East lead for Boston is again 4 ¹/2 games, which the Yanks will now try to make up with two starters on the DL and Montgomery hopefully nothing more than wobbled.
“It’s probably a good thing we made the additions we made,” manager Joe Girardi said of Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia, whose importance now rises higher.
The constant in the rotation this season has been Severino, who until Saturday had been steadily enhancing his Cy Young candidacy to at least challenge for second behind Sale.
He was handed a 2-0 lead when Gary Sanchez tucked a classic Yankee Stadium two-run homer inside the right-field foul pole in the first inning, just as Aaron Hicks had done in the vital eighth inning the night before.
Meanwhile, Severino breezed through the first seven Red Sox hitters in 19 pitches. That took him to one out into the third with a 2-0 lead. But eighth-place hitter Christian Vazquez altered the course of this game with a superb ninepitch plate appearance that ended in a walk. Jackie Bradley Jr. then also walked on a full-count pitch. Todd Frazier could have helped perhaps bail out Severino, but in his own words he made “a big mistake”. rushing to try to initiate a double play on an Eduardo Nunez grounder and instead botching the ball to leave bases loaded no outs.
Severino had not yielded more than four hits in any of previous three starts. But with the bases loaded here he gave up four in a row, the most damaging a threerun homer by Andrew Benintendi, who would hit another three-run shot in the fifth to assure a rout.
Benintendi began the season as the AL Rookie of the Year favorite, but only now is beginning to truly perform to his pedigree. It almost certainly will be too late to overtake the full work of Aaron Judge for Rookie honors. But this was yet another game in which Judge’s struggles infected the team. He went 0for-4 striking out twice looking and hitting into a double play. Girardi said he would consider another offday soon for Judge in an attempt “to get him back on track.”
Girardi had hoped to make Saturday an off-day for Bryan Mitchell, since he along with Luis Cessa were the candidates to replace Tanaka to open the Subway Series Monday. Instead, Severino lasted 4 ¹/3 innings and Mitchell got used.
And who knows how deep Girardi will have to go into his pen Sunday in support of Montgomery, whose hell week went like this: sent down to the minors to begin to limit his rookie year innings, brought back when Sabathia needed to be disabled and then having a ball gash his right ear.
It was that kind of day for the Yankees, the joy of Friday night dissolving way too quickly into a miserable Saturday.