That’s right, the Yankees have now sunk to 1/2 game behind the Rays, 4 games behind tonight’s opponent Baltimore, and 6 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. Only the Blue Jays are flailing more than the Yankees right now, and only 2 games back. Tomorrow, it’s a new month, a new chapter and 14 straight games until the All-Star Break to redeem some of their lost ground, and hopefully with all but the first four games, they can really play into that home field advantage and a crowd that’s aching to see them back on top.
Tonight’s game wasn’t exactly anyone’s best performance. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda gave up a solo home run to Baltimore for each of the first 3 innings, giving the Oriole’s a quick lead. In the 7th, Kuroda allowed 2 batter on base (a single and a double) was replaced by Boone Logan who allowed one in batter to score on a sacrifice fly, but neither he nor the 8th inning pitcher Kelley allowed any further damage from the O’s.
Offensively, the Yankees loaded the bases early in the 2nd inning and Gardner’s earned walk scored Almonte. In the 6th inning, Robinson Cano slammed a nice home run out to right-center field to make an attempt for the Yankees. But they never were able to grab a lead and lost tonight’s game (and the sweep) to Baltimore 4-2.
Defensively, there were some really great plays by the Yankees, just being the Yankees again. (No media is available due to the national broadcast on ESPN; national broadcasts do not immediately release any video highlights to be used for MLB & MLB blog purposes.) Logan grabbed a ball from going past him in the 7th and saved a potential run by stalling the runner and getting the out at 1st. Ichiro Suzuki used the outfield as his personal Slip ‘n Slide with some great running-sliding catches on fly balls, including a really spectacular catch in the 8th inning.
Chris Stewart probably had the worst day today. Early in the game, a batter swung his bat back with a particularly awkward force and hit Stewart on the helmet. (Thank God for helmets!) He was able to walk it off and finish the game just fine until the 9th inning where he got plunked on the back by an errant ball thrown way outside the batter’s box. I’m guessing Stewart is leaving the city with a lot less “good thoughts” about their team than when he woke up this morning.
I guess when I think about it, a win today would have been almost out of character for the June Yankees. June hasn’t been kind to the pinstriped ones. It’s like the onset of summer has suddenly shifted the normal order of things in the AL East. I don’t like it. And I imagine they don’t like it either. And like I said earlier, tomorrow begins a new month, with new opportunities and a new forward mentality. The season is far from over.
Actually as I look at the count, it’s exactly half over. This means there is still 81 whole games worth of opportunity to find the Yankees of April and May all over again. I’d love to see them go into the All-Star Break on a high, but I believe the break is exactly what they need to rediscover, well, themselves. I think we’ll be looking at a different team on the other side of the break because they just don’t like to be on this side of a streak. Every year, the Yankees don’t set a goal for “postseason” (like most teams); the goal is “World Series Champions”, and anything short of that is failure.
So what’s it going to take this 4th place team to get to World Series Champions? More runs, better team work, tighter pitching, getting people off the DL, stronger defense? Yes, that’s all important. But I think something they seem to be missing right now, at least for the month of June is what will carry them all the way through to #28 — heart. Call it overrated, corny, or sentimental. But I remember 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009 like they were yesterday, and the one they all had in common is the passion, the drive, the heart of champions. And that’s what made them a dynasty. That’s what made them the feared Yankees. That’s what made them my team.