Yankees Thoughts: ‘Punched in the Face’ by First-Place Orioles

After shutting out the Orioles 2-0 on Wednesday, they dropped the series finale 7-2 on Thursday and lost an important series in Baltimore.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. In the biggest series of the season to date the Yankees came up small, losing three of four to the Orioles.

“A really good team, obviously,” Aaron Boone said of the Orioles. “They can pitch, they’re athletic, they got thump. They’re a complete team that you gotta play well.”

And his team didn’t play well against them.

2. A four-game series against the Orioles is about as close to a postseason series as you can have in the regular season and these Yankees played exactly like they always do in the postseason.

In four games and 36 innings at Oriole Park, the Yankees scored six runs. They were shut out on Monday, hit a pair of solo home runs on Tuesday, hit a two-run home run on Wednesday, and on Thursday, they scored on the worst throw home you’ll ever see and a solo home run. An average of one-and-a-half runs per game over four games against their direct competition for the AL East.

3. And because it was as close to a postseason series as you get in the regular season, Aaron Judge played as close to the way he does in the postseason as possible. 

Judge went 1-for-13 with two walks and four strikeouts in the series. A measly single in four games. A measly single in four games is all he provided in the 2022 ALCS as well (1-for-16), the last time these Yankees were in the playoffs.

“Somebody’s going to pay, big time,” Boone said of when Judge gets going. “He’ll get it going, and look out when he does.”

If healthy, it’s impossible to believe Judge won’t “get it going.” But knowing the Yankees’ now six-year track record of misdiagnosing and improperly handling injuries, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Judge isn’t healthy. Also, Boone is the last person in the world who should be trying to sell people on his players “getting it going” after his failed attempts at this in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

4. Judge was the worst hitter on the team in the biggest series of the season to date, but he wasn’t alone.

Giancarlo Stanton went 1-for-10 with two walks and three strikeouts and Anthony Rizzo went 1-for-13 with four strikeouts. The Yankees’ 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 3-for-36 with four walks and 11 strikeouts as the heart of the order needs a triple bypass.

5. If you’re thinking, “Well, Alex Verdugo is really the cleanup hitter now,” you’re right, but Verdugo was on paternity leave for the first three games of the series, and for the fourth he batted sixth? Why? Here’s what Boone had to say:

“Verdugo will be back in the cleanup spot tomorrow,” Boone said. “With the long travel, I just want to get him settled and ease him in.”

So he’s “eased in” enough to start and play, but not bat cleanup, and instead bat behind Gleyber Torres. I don’t care if he lost his eye sight on the flight to Baltimore or a limb, he should never bat behind Torres again.

6. Before Verdugo’s return flight to the East Coast, the Yankees shut out the Orioles 2-0 on Wednesday. A two-run home run from Oswaldo Cabrera was all the offense in the game behind Luis Gil’s best start in the majors: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. When Gil is throwing strikes, he can dominate, and the only start in which he didn’t really throw strikes was the seven-walk performance in Toronto after the Yankees inexplicably gave him extra rest.

Clay Holmes was asked to get the final five outs of the game and it only made the loss in Milwaukee on Friday that much more comical when Boone wouldn’t use him for six outs and the Yankees lost. Holmes wasn’t needed on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday (he did get one unnecessary appearance on Monday from Boone just to get some work in a close game the Yankees were losing), just as I predicted.

7. On Thursday, Carlos Rodon was putrid, reverting back to his 2023 self: 4 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 3 HR. For as bad as Rodon was, Boone thought there was some good.

“A few mistakes around some good,” Boone said of Rodon.

That quote would make you believe there was more good than mistakes. “Some” is more than a “few.”

Rodon had a 1-2-3 first inning then loaded the bases with no outs in the second and was fortunate to get out of it when Ryan McKenna’s line drive was hit right at Verdugo in left.

In the third, immediately after the Yankees took a one-run lead, he gave the run back on a solo home run to Ryan Mountcastle.

In the fourth, he gave up a pair of solo home runs to Jorge Mateo Ryan McKenna. Yes, the 29-year-old Jorge Mateo who has 24 home runs and a .637 OPS in his career. And yes, the 27-year-old Ryan McKenna with six home runs and a .620 OPS in his career.

During the fifth inning, Michael Kay mentioned how Rodon had “great stuff” in the game, despite the Yankees losing 4-1. After Kay said that, the Orioles scored three more runs and Rodon never recorded an out in the inning.

I’m not sure how anyone could have “great stuff” and allow three home runs (including to JORGE MATEO and RYAN MCKENNA) and six earned runs in four-plus innings. Delusional.

8. Boone would rather tell you it’s snowing outside on a 99-degree day in July than not defend one of his players when he sucks and did so again by trying to sugarcoat Rodon’s awful day. However, when it came to Torres’ error, Boone didn’t stand by his second baseman.

“You gotta secure the ball,” Boone said. “This is the big leagues. You gotta make the play, and he didn’t make the play.” 

Of course Torres hit his first home run of the season (in the 33rd game of the season) the following inning with the Yankees losing by six. In terms of meaningless home runs it was high on the list.

“We got punched in the face,” Torres said. “We have to figure out a way to beat them.”

One day closer to Torres no longer a Yankee. One day closer.

9. With the game out of reach, Boone gave the ball to Michael Tonkin for mop-up duty in the seventh and eighth innings. It was Tonkin’s third appearance as a Yankee. In his second appearance he also was asked to eat meaningless innings. In his first, well, he was asked to close out a one-run game with the automatic runner on. Isn’t Boone the best?

10. The Yankees now trail the Orioles by two games in the loss column and return home for a three-game series against the much-improved Tigers. The Tigers lost 84 games last year, but are five games above .500 this season and have a really good rotation and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Then again, after the Yankees struggled to put away the Rays and split a series with the A’s at home, they should know better than to take any team lightly, even at Yankee Stadium.