The Yankees are on a precarious ride in which every game can be decisive. Last night, the ride took a wrong turn, adding to the ongoing drama.
When the Yankees took the field last night to face the Blue Jays for the middle game of a three-game set, they could be forgiven for having a bounce in their steps.
The ace of their staff and future contender for the Cy Young award Gerrit Cole was walking to the mound on the heels of an easy Yankees victory the previous night that put the team’s magic number at 3 to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
But on this night, it was not meant to be for the Yankees and Cole as they dropped a one-run decision to Toronto, who themselves were fighting for their lives in a ‘real” must-win game.
Illustrating that all the things that can go wrong – will go wrong occasionally and at an inopportune time – Gerrit Cole struggled to find just one pitch that would work for him, an effort that proved to be useless and fatal.
Overthrowing slider after slider to right-handed hitters far off the plate, Cole was forced to rely on his fastball an excessive number of times.
Alas, the Blue Jays hitter were sitting on it, smashing one after another hard-hit ball, two of which went for home runs that accounted for three of the five earned runs Cole surrendered.
At the same time, two of the Yankees’ hottest hitters, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, found the magic missing as both took 0-fers in the game, and the rest of the offense could not make up the difference.
With four to play and both Boston and Seattle winning last night, AL Wild Card Standings have tightened up again, raising any number of chances there will be a tie that necessitates a one-game playoff on Monday, followed by the scheduled Wild Card playoff Tuesday.
The Yankees Still Have Control Of Their Fate
The Yankees’ one-game edge over the Red Sox and two-game edge over Toronto and Seattle in the loss column is not to be underestimated, as each loss by any of those teams is a double-whammy, regardless if the Yankees win or lose.
The best and most secure way for the Yankees to reach their goal is to win tonight and follow that up by taking two of three against Tampa Bay this weekend at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees will then finish with 93 wins, causing Boston to win all four of their remaining games in a tie, while Seattle and Toronto will be eliminated regardless of what they do.
For a team that’s been playing as the Yankees have, that is not a tall order.
Yet, as last night proved, nothing in baseball is a gimme, even when you have (arguably) the best pitcher in the American League making a start for your team.
The Spotlight Turns To Corey Kluber
Tonight, the onus falls on Corey Kluber, a former Cy Young winner himself and today’s featured image, to regain the Yankees’ advantage before last night’s loss. For Kluber, the road back has been bumpy.
Kluber is still not himself after returning from a long stint on the IL. Still, like Cole and Jordan Montgomery, who will follow him on Friday against Tampa Bay, he has that fire that burns inside to excel and win, especially in games that have far-reaching consequences.
Yet, any time you have two hitters like Judge and Stanton who were powering balls to all fields (and even one that StatCast measured to be a foot-and-a-half off the ground that Stanton hit for a home run), a hitless night for both can raise wonder – is the streak over, or was this simply one of those games?
Striking early and often has been the key to the Yankees surge. Last night, Toronto gained the advantage they would never cede when Marcus Semien drove a misplaced fastball into the seats that spotted the Jays to a two-run lead.
That blow didn’t hurt the Yankees as they came back to come within one run at the end, but its consequence was enormous for Toronto and the fans in attendance.
It provided a lift to the team that, if it were the Yankees doing the same, would have led to an “Oh, no, here we go again” mentality within Rogers Center.
All of this means that Kluber, unlike Cole last night, must come out sharp and stingy with hits, especially runs.
Will The Yankees Do It The Easy Or Hard Way?
While it’s almost insane to say this is a critical game for the Yankees, this one will help decide how easy or complicated the weekend will be.
Having Sunday’s game, for instance, as an opportunity to lay back, smell the roses, play with Bronxie, and anticipate a day off Monday before Yankees Stadium erupts the next day, is where the Yankees want to be.
What a ride, though, huh?
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Debbie Orr Olsen Every move has a consequence!
Clark Kendall it’s gonna take another turn tonight..Kluber is not gonna “shut down” the blue jays Wow!
Don Jones one day or one game at a time
Joel Albert Time to break the mold…..start Cortes tonight
Paul Briggs Just WIN!!
William Gage Unlike most other sports, there really is no such thing as an “upset” in baseball. Any given team can win any given game against any other given team. The Mets and the Orioles each took 2 out of 3 against the Yankees. The Orioles beat the Red Sox the other night. Predictions can be made for a season but there is no way to be comfortably certain that a team will win a game, 3 out of 5 games or 4 out of 7 games.
Susan Abbott When we were talking about the upcoming series I knew I would face some time in the fetal position with a bottle of wine. I get that not every pitcher has their stuff working every game but continuing to throw those same pitches over and over, that’s just something our “Ace” should have corrected. As for the other errors, It took some time to pick my jaw up off the floor. When we’re good, we’re very, very good. But when we’re bad, we’re really, really bad and it really, really hurts!!
Stephanie Winarski Rongo The next 4 days are going to be quite interesting. Especially since the Mariners are in the thick of it with the Yanks and the icky Sox