The Biggest Win of the Season Became the Worst Loss

New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

This is going to be the biggest win of the season. That’s what I thought when Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury scored in the seventh inning to tie Tuesday night’s game in Toronto at 6. That thought didn’t last long.

In the fifth inning on Tuesday night against the Blue Jays, Derek Jeter made an uncharacteristic brain fart (his first of two in the inning) that kept the inning alive and loaded the bases for the Blue Jays, who already led 3-0. And David Phelps bailed out his shortstop by giving up a first-pitch drive off the right-field wall to Colby Rasmus. Two runs initially scored and with Rasmus trying to advance to second, Jeter caught him in a rundown as Edwin Encarnacion danced off third, trying to decide if he should break for home, as Jeter tried to get Rasmus out while also keeping an eye on Encarnacion. Jeter held on to the ball and ran Rasmus safely back to first and Encarnacion raced home. 6-0 Blue Jays.

Jeter came away from the play with a confused look on his face like someone who got off an elevator on the wrong floor, but tried to play it cool as though he meant to get off that floor. And I came away from the play with the look of frustration like someone who was watching their baseball team aimlessly navigate through another wasted game. In the dugout, Joe Girardi had a different look. It was a look that suggested he might go through the clubhouse after the game and individually fight every player on his team. And he would want to individually fight each Yankee because as Mark Teixeira reminded us all after the Yankees’ two-inning loss to the Blue Jays on Monday, baseball is an individual game.

Friday night looked like it was going to be the biggest win of the year. The 2014 Yankees, a team with less fight in them than Brian Boyle, had come back against the Orioles and erased a two-run, ninth-inning deficit, winning on a three-run, walkoff home run from Carlos Beltran. After suggesting that Yankee Stadium no longer has a home-field advantage over the first two-plus months of the season, the walkoff win was the Yankees’ fourth in a row and fifth consecutive home win. But momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher and unfortunately for the Yankees, that was Vidal Nuno, who hates momentum more than Brett Gardner hates trying to steal a base early in a count. The Yankees’ four-game winning streak that had brought them back to a tie in the loss column with the first-place Blue Jays became a two-game losing streak over the weekend and extended to three games on Monday after Chase Whitley tried to one-up Nuno by giving up seven runs on 10 hits in the first two innings in Toronto. And after that Monday loss is when we heard from self-appointed de facto captain Mark Teixeira.

“Baseball is an individual game in a team atmosphere. Individually, we’ve just got to figure out a way to get the jobs done. Everyone has to step up a little bit and hopefully, collectively, if everyone does a little bit better we’ll score more runs.”

I really, really, really hope Teixeira was including himself both times he said “everyone” and wasn’t talking about everyone other than him. But I have a feeling that because he’s hitting .241/.335/.467 and leading the Yankees in home runs (13) and RBIs (36) he thinks he has done his job this season, even if leading the Yankees in those two categories in 2014 holds as much clout as having the most buddies on AIM. If playing in 56 of your team’s 76 games (74 percent) and hitting 36 points below your career average, 13 points below your career on-base percentage and 56 points below your career slugging percentage is doing a job you’re paid $23.5 million per season to do then I’m sorry for suggesting otherwise. And maybe I should be sorry because there seem to be a lot of people that think Teixeira has done his job this season hasn’t been part of the problem for a team that ranks 20th in runs scored in the league (one place above the Mets).

In Teixeira’s first game since speaking out about the team scoring four runs during their three-game losing streak, he must have forgotten his own words.

“Baseball is an individual game in a team atmosphere.”

In the first inning with runners on first and second and one out, Teixeira hit a 1-2 changeup into a 4-6-3 double play.

“Individually, we’ve just got to figure out a way to get the jobs done.”

In the fourth inning, Teixeira led off the inning by grounding out to short on a 3-2 fastball.

“Everyone has to step up a little bit.”

In the sixth inning, with one out following Jeter’s solo home run to make it 6-1, Teixeira grounded out to short again, this time on a 2-2 fastball.

“Hopefully, collectively, if everyone does a little bit better …”

In the seventh inning, with two outs, runners on second and third and three runs already in to make it 6-4, Teixeira hit a 1-1 fastball to Jose Reyes at short, who made his second throwing error of the game that allowed Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury to score to tie the game.

“… we’ll score more runs.”

In the ninth inning, with two outs and Gardner at third as the go-ahead run, Teixeira struck out on three pitches.

The three-pitch strikeout was Teixeira’s last at-bat because if you haven’t seen the disastrous bottom of the ninth, Joe Girardi brought in Adam Warren, who I wouldn’t trust to tell me what day of the week it is, with Shawn Kelley and David Robertson hanging out in the bullpen (Ladies and gentlemen, set bullpen roles!). In three Warren pitches, the Blue Jays won after a leadoff double and Yangervis Solarte throwing error. Ballgame over. Yankees lose. Again.

A day after awkwardly trying to step up and be a leader for a team he has been in and out of the lineup for by calling out the offense, Teixeira responded by going 0-for-5 with a strikeout and left three men on, including the potential go-ahead run in the ninth.

Given the score through five innings, the three miserable losses on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and the most importantly the standings and opponent, Tuesday was going to the biggest win of the season. It was going to be a six-run comeback on the road against a first-place team that would have ended a three-game losing streak. Instead, it was the worst loss of the season.

The Yankees have now lost 34 games and Tuesday’s was the worst. Sure, there was Opening Day in Houston and the following night in Houston. And there was May 10 in Milwaukee and also May 11 in Milwaukee. There was the first game of the Subway Series and the second game of the Subway Series. There was Adam Dunn’s walk-off home run off against David Robertson on May 23 and Robertson’s meltdown against the Twins on June 1. There was the blown 4-0 lead against the A’s on June 4 and pretty much any Nuno or CC Sabathia start. But Tuesday night against the Blue Jays was the worst. I can only hope it remains the worst for the rest of the season.