New York Post

Even in defeat, kids add intrigue

- Mike Vaccaro

MINNEAPOLI­S — It is easy to fall back into old habits, because let’s face it: no matter how much you keep telling yourself to be patient, to wait, to look to 2018 and 2019 and 2020, that isn’t how you’re wired as a baseball fan. It’s certainly not in your DNA as a Yankees fan.

So games like this one, this 4-2 loss to the Twins, you are inclined to suffer and bleed about missed chances and blown opportunit­ies, about that puzzling bunt Didi Gregorius laid down in the eighth inning, about being unable to pounce on the Twins, a Yankees punching bag for 15 years, the Yankees 74-29 against them going back to 2002 before Monday night.

Naturally, you wince when you see the Red Sox lose a toughie to the Jays up at Fenway. And, not for nothing, the Twins are now only a half-game behind the Yankees for the second wild card, based mostly on the strength of games exactly like this one: Minnesota is 24-12 in games decided by one or two runs; the Yankees are 14-22. This is your muscle memory. You worry about today, tomorrow be damned.

And yet, because you are trying — really, really trying — to deal with the 9-21 record over the last 30 games, you are also trying — really, really trying — to appreciate the bountiful gifts that the kids — the very best representa­tive of tomorrow, of next year, of future years — provide.

And even on nights like this, they do provide.

Listen to Caleb Smith, the lefty who retired the first six batters of his major league career in relief of Bryan Mitchell before faltering in the eighth:

“It’s a great feeling, there’s no other feeling like it,” he said. “I’m definitely glad I’m here, this is an experience like nothing else. I’m living my dream. It’s what I’ve talked about doing since I was knee high.”

And he wasn’t alone. Aaron Judge had another quiet night at the plate, but he also helped keep the Yankees in the game with an almost impossible-to-believe rocket throw in the third inning, which doubled off Brian Dozier racing in from third and also defused a potentiall­y big Minnesota night.

There was Clint Frazier, of course, who has been a big leaguer for about 15 minutes yet carries himself every day, on every way, like a guy with 10 years in, who legged out a pair of doubles and provides such a daily jolt of energy he’s like a breathing can of Red Bull.

“Every time I hit the ball,” Frazier said, “I’m thinking extra-base hit.”

There was Garrett Cooper, the perfect name for a Yankees first baseman, who a week ago was preparing to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Tacoma, Wash., (where he went 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI to fuel the Pacific Coast League’s 6-4 win over the Internatio­nal League) and who on this night had three hits, including a pair of booming doubles.

Maybe you aren’t much for moral victories, especially as it becomes plainer and plainer that the A.L. East is going to remain up for grabs for the duration, that the Red Sox aren’t going to run away and hide anytime soon. That’s OK. Ask a Mets fan how much fun it is to have your rooting interest reduced to winning the trade deadline, instead of any actually important baseball games beyond July 31.

Hell: just remember how YOU felt this time last year.

So yes: it’s understand­able if you want to lament another game where the Yankees were less than dominant in the clutch, twice stranding Frazier on third with less than two outs. It’s understand­able if you scratched your head as Girardi let Smith swim (and ultimately sink) with the game on the line in the eighth, the manager favoring to rest the bulk of his bullpen after a tough weekend in Beantown.

It’s good to wake up grouchy after this one.

And also good to know that there will be kids scattered across Target Field again tonight, that Gary Sanchez will be back in the lineup, that he and Judge will have a chance to get healthy at the 83-mph slo-pitch softballs that constitute much of Bartolo Colon’s repertoire these days.

The kids provide the silver lining, even on nights like this one, when by game’s end it was dark, cold and teeming rain.

 ?? AP ?? BEAT IT! Clint Frazier beats Brian Dozier’s tag for a double during the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 loss.
AP BEAT IT! Clint Frazier beats Brian Dozier’s tag for a double during the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 loss.
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