The Yankees returned home from their successful West Coast road trip by losing two of three to the well-below-.500 White Sox. It was a disappointing few days of losing and injury news for the Yankees.
1. The White Sox are aren’t good (.438 winning percentage). But the Yankees without Aaron Judge are basically the White Sox (.467 winning percentage). The Yankees didn’t have Judge for the three-game series against the White Sox, and to no surprise, the Yankees lost the series, scoring 10 runs in three games.
On Monday night, the Yankees were no-hit by Lucas Giolito for six innings. Giolito isn’t having a great year, but no staring pitcher needs to be having a great year to shut down this Yankees offense. Just ask Alek Manoah who was demoted to the Blue Jays’ instructional league this week to completely reset his career after posting a 6.36 ERA and 6.53 FIP in 13 starts. For as bad as Manoah has been, that didn’t stop him from pitching seven shutout innings against the Yankees earlier this season. If not for Giolito throwing 100 pitches in his six shutout innings, he would have undoubtedly no-hit the Yankees (but he may have needed 130-plus pitches to do so).
The Judge-less Yankees managed to score two runs off the White Sox’ bullpen, but came up short in a 3-2 loss. The loss dropped the Yankees to 6-7 when Judge is out of the lineup, and in those 13 games, the Yankees have scored 45 runs or 3.46 per game.
2. Judge was put on the injured list prior to the start of the doubleheader and Aaron Boone got aggravated when asked about the status of Judge.
“We don’t have the timeline,” Boone said. “We don’t know.”
Finally, Boone took my advice. Earlier this week, I wrote:
I wish Boone would just say no comment to every injury-related question. His understanding of the severity of injuries is elementary and the timetables he has given for injury returns for now six years as a manger are laughable.
Maybe Boone is getting smarter.
3. No, Boone isn’t getting smarter. In the first game of the doubleheader on Thursday, he managed to use Wandy Peralta for one pitch, Michael King for two innings and Tommy Kahnle for an inning in a game the Yankees lost. So he possibly took Peralta out of the equation for the night game, made King unavailable for the first game of the Red Sox series on Friday and lost Kahnle for the second game of the doubleheader as well. It was a work of art from Boone.
I don’t blame Boone at all for the 6-5 loss in the first game on Thursday. I do blame him for how he set up the bullpen for the second game and for Friday’s game. It’s not his fault King blew the lead and gave up a two-run, go-ahead home run to Luis Robert in the seventh inning. But once King did blow the lead and the Yankees didn’t at least tie the game in the bottom of the inning, King shouldn’t have been back out for the eighth in a game the Yankees were now losing, considering it would make him unavailable for Friday.
4. Luis Severino was the reason the Yankees lost the first game. After working a scoreless first around a single and walk, Severino allowed a two-run home run in the second and a pair of solo home runs in the third. It was the second bad start in a row for Severino (5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3 HR), something the Yankees can’t afford with the lineup missing Judge, Nestor Cortes on the injured list and Carlos Rodon nowhere near throwing a pitch for the Yankees. In a game the Judge-less Yankees scored five runs, they needed to win. Instead, they lost and fell to 6-8 without Judge, averaging 3.57 runs in those 14 games.
5. Offensively, the second game of the doubleheader looked like it was playing out like the first game of the series as the Yankees were no-hit through the first three innings. Fortunately, it ended there.
In the bottom of the fourth, new leadoff hitter (he batted first in both games of the doubleheader) Willie Calhoun doubled and Gleyber Torres followed with a two-run home run to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. They added a run in the fifth when Billy McKinney (yes, Billy McKinney) went deep and then held on for a 3-0 win behind 3 1/3 innings of no-hit relief from Ron Marinaccio and Clay Holmes.
Randy Vasquez was awesome in his second career start in the night game (5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) to lower his two-start ERA to 1.74. After Vasquez struck out Juan Soto in his major-league debut a week-and-a-half ago, I knew he had the potential to be really good at this level, and he showed it on Thursday.
6. Aside from Vasquez’s impressive outing, the reason the Yankees were able to earn a split for the day and score eight runs had nothing to do with the remaining names in the lineup you would think it would have to do with. Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson combined to go 0-for-20 with three walks. Calhoun, McKinney, Jake Bauers and Kyle Higashioka combined to go 10-for-23 with four doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and a walk. That’s a problem.
It’s a problem that LeMahieu looks every bit as bad as he did last year when he was shut down with a foot injury. In the last three weeks he has two extra-base hits and they came in the same game. In the last four weeks he has one multi-hit game. Is LeMahieu hurt again and just not telling anyone to avoid missing significant time for a third straight year?
Rizzo is also in a slump of his own, though he was so good for the first two months of the season that it’s hard to get on him for his first rough stretch of the year. The problem is that without Judge in the lineup, the Yankees can’t have a rough stretch from Rizzo. Not with LeMahieu going the way he is, not with Stanton and Donaldson having just returned, not with Torres having just homered for the first time in two weeks and not with Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera both playing like they should be playing in Triple-A.
7. It’s one thing to count on players like Calhoun (who entered the year as the worst position player from a WAR perspective in the majors since 2020), Bauers (who has been with four organizations in five years) and McKinney (who has been with six organizations in five years) for a day. But to count on three journeymen, negative-career-WAR players like those three for a lengthy amount of time is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t have another option.
8. With Judge and Harrison Bader on the IL and Aaron Hicks playing for the Orioles (where he’s hitting .368/.478/.632), the Yankees’ expected starting outfield from the winter isn’t available. The Opening Day left fielder (Cabrera) is supposed to be in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and only isn’t because Greg Allen (Hicks’ replacement) also had to go on the IL. That’s how you end up with the Yankees playing two infielders in the outfield daily (Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Bauers), a poor defensive outfielder (Calhoun) and needing to call up McKinney. If you told me in the offseason that on June 8, McKinney would be starting in center field, Calhoun would be hitting leadoff, Bauers would be batting fifth, Kiner-Falefa sixth and three-fifths of the rotation being Vasquez, Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German, I would have asked how many games the Yankees were out of a postseason spot.
9. Thankfully, the Yankees currently hold a postseason spot: the second wild-card berth (which would have them playing a best-of-3 in Baltimore to advance to the ALDS). It’s not the spot they want (the AL East title and a first-round bye), but it’s a spot nonetheless. A spot they are barely hanging on to by one game over the Blue Jays.
They won’t have a spot for much longer with Judge out if the other big-money, All-Star names on the team don’t start hitting. The Yankees can’t rely on the Misfit and Replacement Yankees to keep them afloat until they get healthier (if they ever do). They need to be able to rely on the bats they expected to rely on this season.
10. The last three games against the White Sox were the “easy” part of the Yankees’ schedule for the next couple of weeks and they lost two of three at home to their lowly opponent. Now they have three against the Red Sox, two against the Mets, three more against the Red Sox, three against the Mariners and three against the Rangers.
The 14-game gauntlet begins on Friday night against the Red Sox, a team that has lost 18 of 28 and is in last place in the AL East (but would be in first place in the crappy AL Central). Gerrit Cole gets the ball in the series opener followed by German and Schmidt. Given the Yankees’ starters in the second and third games of the series, and the unlikelihood of the offense generating many runs at this time, the Yankees can’t afford to lose the Cole start. They have already lost too much of late.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available as an ebook!