from Deesha Thosar
FOX Sports MLB Writer
NEW YORK – Where did he go? Yankees‘ grab to go?
He’s been out for several weeks now, as an uninspiring and disjointed New York lineup has been shut out in four of its last nine games. There was no sense of self-assurance in the most critical moments of the Yankees’ 4-0 loss to the Rays on Monday in front of 42,192 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 12 games, and they have scored just eight runs in their last 59 games, or five games.
“Right now, we have to do better,” manager Aaron Boone said after Monday’s loss. “It’s tough. It’s tough right now. We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to keep digging ourselves out of this. You go through something like this, some individuals struggling a little bit with their faith right now, you’ve got to find a way. when it’s hard”.
The fans are furious. They spent money on parking, tickets, food and drinks and packed Yankee Stadium, only to watch their team crumble against a division rival. The fans booed him in the fourth inning after a particularly poor at-bat by outfielder Aaron Hicks. High-decibel chants rang out after Hicks, with the bases loaded and the Yankees trailing by a run, based on a bottomless double play.
It marked the fourth time this season that Hicks has produced that hit, which leads the major leagues.
At least some Yankees are struggling with the pressure of their last stretch. Boone mentioned as much, multiple times, in his postgame press conference Monday. “Some individuals have worn it,” he said again and again.
But what always followed that acceptance was Boone’s expectation that his players must be equipped to navigate and weather adversity.
“Obviously, it’s not good to hear the hype,” said Hicks, who is slashing .218/.339/.305 in 102 games this year. “But when you go through the season the way I am, that’s how it goes, especially here. They want results.”
“People are running into you. That’s part of this business. That’s part of wearing this uniform — of course, wearing the armbands,” Boone said. “It’s going to be gut-check time. It’s going to be tough at different points in the season. We’ve got to find a way to level that out and just focus on your process, play your game.”
How much panic has this disappointing stretch caused at the club? Honestly, not much. Despite going 8-16 since the All-Star break, the Yankees still lead the American League East by 10 games. They can thank the Blue Jays for that sizable advantage. Toronto is 3-8 in its last 11 games and has so far failed to capitalize on the Yankees’ second-half slump.
The Yankees will insist their double-digit division lead isn’t causing complacency. Ask them about their possible lack of urgency and they’ll laugh, as Gerrit Cole did Monday after his six-run, one-run shutout against the Rays.
The Yankees are motivated to win every night, third baseman Josh Donaldson said, and no one in that clubhouse is waiting for a magic pill to come and save them.
“We come to play every day,” Donaldson said. “We’re not complacent with what we’re doing. But we understand – we’ve earned the cushion we have at the moment. And nobody’s worried that we’ve lost a few games. Obviously, we’re not trying to make a habit of it. We know we have team to compete and win a lot of games, like we have this year.”
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The Yankees are frustrated, for sure. First baseman Anthony Rizzo smashed his helmet into the dugout over and over after he struck out against southpaw Ryan Yarbrough in the third inning on Monday. Losing is bad and no one wants to go back to their winning ways more than the Yankees. After all, they were on pace to set records this season. Many expected the 2022 Bronx Bombers, whose 64 first-half wins set a franchise record, to break the 2001 Mariners’ record of 116 wins in a season. But with the way they’ve played lately, it’s hard to believe this team was being compared to the vaunted 1998 Yankees.
While this recent stretch has given fans every reason to question whether this is a championship-caliber team, the Yankees’ division advantage means they still have a 100 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs . The Blue Jays taking a chance to pounce on the Yankees going through it means New York can afford to practice patience and trust the process.
It might sound boring, Boone said, but that’s really all the Yankees can do in these dog days of August. Well, that and eagerly awaiting the returns of their injured players, key cogs like Giancarlo Stanton (sore left Achilles) and DJ LeMahieu (toe injury).
“It’s just a matter of everything clicking,” Boone said. “We’ve had some key guys to varying degrees this stretch. But that happens to everybody. You’ve got to be able to find a way when you don’t necessarily have everybody or it’s not perfect. That’s our biggest challenge. big or not right now – it’s finding a way to continue in a lot of these games where a lot of good things are happening but we’re not good enough to shake hands at the end of the day.”
Against the backdrop of the Yankees (72-44) trying to catch up on the baseball calendar and weathering their unfortunate injuries is a particularly challenging schedule. They are in the midst of a three-game series against the Rays (61-53), followed by a four-game stretch against the Blue Jays (61-53), in which the Yankees’ still-strong lead could really hit if Toronto seizes the opportunity. Next, New York’s nine-game winning streak ends with the final Subway Series of the regular season against a Mets team (75-41) that has looked unstoppable behind Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.
This home could yet be a turning point for a team that was relentless to start the season. Aaron Judge and his 46 major league home runs are a constant threat to the lineup. The Yankees pitching staff, ranked third in MLB with a 3.29 ERA, is starting to get back on track. Cole has allowed just one run in his last 18 innings. There are encouraging pieces that keep this team together. Now they just need a spark – and some consistency – to reclaim their glory.
“It’s just one of those funks that’s hard to put into words,” Cole said. “The challenge is, it can be a little disappointing when you’re in this situation and, you know, we’re selling out and we’re not getting the results. But nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. Baseball is tough and things like this happens.
You cannot choose as a player and as a team what bad things will happen to you. You can only choose how you respond.”
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for three and a half seasons as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. She never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone he plays. Follow him on Twitter at @Deesha Thosar.
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