Yankees Thoughts: A Near-Nationals Sweep Becomes Back-to-Back Walk-Off Wins

Yankees finish homestand with two-game winning streak over Nationals

The Yankees are very fortunate to have won two of three against the Nationals. They were very close to being swept by the struggling Nationals, and on their way back under .500. Instead, they’re riding a two-game winning streak after back-to-back walk-off wins as they head back to Tampa.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. On Friday, I wrote the following:

I think the Yankees have turned their season around. Normally, I would be hesitant to make a claim like that, but I saw enough of a change out of the team this week to believe their level of play in the season’s 25 games is behind them and they will continue to be the team they were expected to be in 2021. (Now watch them get swept by the Nationals this weekend.)

I take that one back, and yes, the Nationals were very, very close to sweeping the Yankees. They beat the crap out of the Yankees on Friday, were three outs away from holding on to a dominating Max Scherzer performance, and were able to embarrass Aaron Boone’s bullpen management on Sunday.

The team really hasn’t turned it around like I thought they might have, and it all has to do with the offense. The Yankees have scored 36 runs in eight May games. Two of those games came against the Tigers, and they only scored eight runs total in those two games. The team’s best offensive output of May so far has been the seven runs they scored against the Astros on May 4, and three of those runs came on a bases-clearing throwing error by Alex Bregman. The Yankees have scored 15 runs over their last four games, and two of those runs came because of automatic runners placed on second base in extra innings. The Yankees have actually scored 13 runs over their last four games, and only scored nine “real” runs in three games against the Nationals.

2. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton for the last two weeks and DJ LeMahieu for the last week, the offense has continued to be abysmal. Aaron Hicks went 1-for-the weekend. Gary Sanchez went 1-for-the week, but did hit first home run since April 3 and his first extra-base hit since April 7. Aaron Judge is 5-for-29 in May with 15(!) strikeouts and no home runs, and three of those five hits came in one game on May 1. Gleyber Torres hit his first home since October. Clint Frazier is 2-for-May (20 at-bats). Mike Ford is 4-for-the season, and won’t be good enough to be a Yankee when Luke Voit is activated, but is good enough to bat sixth when he is a Yankee. Kyle Higashioka’s average and on-base percentage are quickly falling to his career averages (.192 and .242).

3. “It’s not always going to be easy,” Boone said after the team’s win on Sunday. “You’re not always going to just have your way with a team but you’re going to have to win these tough ones every now and then.”

When exactly has it been easy? When is it going to be easy? The Yankees have 18 wins. Four of them have been easy. The 7-0 win over the Orioles on April 5, the 7-2 win over the Orioles on April 6, the 7-0 win over the Orioles on April 28 and the 10-0 win over the Tigers on April 30. Four easy wins in 34 games and they are all against the Orioles and Tigers.

The Yankees don’t have “to win tough ones every now and then.” They have to win tough ones every single time they want a win and aren’t playing teams destined for 100-plus losses.

So yes, the Yankees still have the same offensive problems they had a week ago, and the week before that, and two weeks before that, and all the way back to Opening Day. The team has scored double digit runs just once this season 10-0 win on Apr 30 over Detroit. The Red Sox scored double digit runs three times last week in six games.

4. I also wrote this on Friday:

Loaisiga has gone from unpitchable in high-leverage spots in October to now being the most trusted active member of the bullpen behind Chapman. I wanted Loaisiga in the eighth inning on Thursday, but understood why Boone went to Green.

Jonathan Loaisiga backed up my words and followed up Chad Green’s meltdown on Thursday with one of his own on Friday. It wasn’t just a meltdown, it was a Jonathan Holder-like meltdown. Loaisiga had given up two earned runs in 18 1/3 innings before Thursday and then managed to give up four earned runs while recording only one out. He entered  a 3-3 game and by the time he was done, and by the time Luis Cessa was done making sure Loaisiga’s ERA took as big of a hit as possible, the Nationals led 9-3 after sending 12 batters to the plate in the eighth.

The Loaisiga who had no business pitching in high-leverage spots in 2020 appeared for the first time in 2021, and it better have been an anomaly. Because with Zack Britton still out and Darren O’Day now out, the elite, trustworthy options in the bullpen are dwindling. The Yankees can’t afford to have the clock strike midnight on Loaisiga. Not if the offense is going to have trouble scoring runs the way they have for the first 21 percent of the season.

5. If the Nationals fall out of it, and I expect them to, when they make Scherzer available, the Yankees need to do everything they can to acquire him. Will they? Probably not. Instead, they will probably let him go to the Astros the way they let Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Grienke and then they can see Scherzer twice in the ALCS and we can see another easy 14 strikeouts from him against this lineup.

6. Boone did everything he could to lose on Sunday. Why was Scumbag Domingo German was allowed to try to go through the Nationals’ lineup a third time? It’s something Boone rarely lets Cole do, and he might be the best pitcher in the world, let alone Scumbag German who is barely in the majors. Rather than make the move he always makes, Boone decided with Scumbag German, he could get a seventh inning out of him and steal some outs and give his bullpen a lighter workload.

Scumbag German gave up a double on the first pitch of the inning to Josh Bell. With one out and Bell at second, Boone let German stay in to face Kyle Schwarber. Four pitches later, Schwarber his a missile to the second deck in right field to tie the game. Then, once the lead was erased and the game was tied, Boone went to Michael King for the first time in 11 days and second time in 23 days.

7. Where was Lucas Luetge to face Schwarber? Where was Wandy Peralta? What I’m about to say next is very scary.

Luetge was most likely unnecessarily unavailable on Sunday. That means Peralta was the only left-handed option for Boone in the bullpen. Boone was saving Peralta for Juan Soto’s late-inning plate appearance no matter what. No matter what situation might come up before Soto’s late-inning trip to the plate (like the actual one we saw with Schwarber) and no matter what the score was by the time Soto stepped into the box or what situation he was stepping into the box in, Boone was saving Peralta for that. I wish it weren’t true, but it is.

That’s who manages the Yankees. Someone that dumb and idiotic that they allowed the game to be tied by letting Schwarber face a righty, while representing the tying run. They say you might see something you have never seen before whenever you go to a baseball games, well each day I see something I have never seen before from Boone, and it’s never a good thing.

The day before, on Saturday, Boone asked Ford to sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning. The last time Ford had a sacrifice bunt was in 2012 in the Cape Cod League. Nine years ago. That’s who manages the Yankees.

8. I had to do a double take to make sure that was really Michael King wearing number 73 in the game on Sunday. It was King’s first appearance in 11 days and second in 23 days. Good use of a roster spot! The Yankees have played 34 games over 40 days (counting Monday’s day off) and King has appeared in four of them. The Yankees should continue to hold him out for that one time a starter gets hurt early or is getting knocked around and they need a long man. More Cessa, please.

9. Just a nice little Sunday off for Judge. Drive to the Stadium, put on the Yankees uniform, take in the game from the best seat in the place and make around $62,000 for the afternoon.

Why did Judge not start on Sunday before his pinch-hit walk in hte ninth? Because the Yankees have Monday off and having Sunday off and Monday off give him two days off. Why does he need two days after having only started 29 of 34 (85 percent) games this season ? Because the Yankees are playing at the Trop the next three days and the Trop has turf and Judge needs time off before playing on turf. I wish I were being sarcastic and making it up.

Starting on Tuesday, the Yankees are going to play 13 games in 13 days. Three at Tampa, three at Baltimore, four at Texas and then three back home against the White Sox. Expect to see some spring training lineups beginning this coming weekend in Baltimore. The lineup you will see on getaway day Sunday in Baltimore and getaway day Thursday in Texas are going to be all-time Boone lineups. I look forward to Rougned Odor coming back lead off. Maybe Tyler Wade will stick around and bat third. Why shouldn’t he? Everyone else has gotten a chance to.

I want a 7-3 road trip to Tampa, Baltimore and Texas. If the Yankees have really turned their season around, they’ll accomplish it.

10. This three-game series in Tampa is enormously important. One, because the Yankees have won 12 of 17 and are two games above .500 and seem headed in the right direction. Two, because the Yankees have been embarrassed by the Rays during the Boone era the way the Rays used to get embarrassed by the Yankees in the late-‘90s and early-2000s. Three, because the Rays aren’t very good and the Yankees should be able to beat them (the Rays are 5-1 against the Yankees and 14-16 against everyone else). And four, the Yankees are missing Tyler Glasnow this series (or at least they’re supposed to). Enough is enough with getting embarrassed by the Rays. The Rays! 2004 me can’t believe I wrote that.

I want a 7-3 road trip to Tampa, Baltimore and Texas. If the Yankees have really turned their season around, they’ll accomplish it.

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