In the midst of the most important stretch of the season thus far (13 games against AL East teams) the Yankees went 3-4 on a disappointing road trip.
Treading Water: Yankees Split with Blue Jays to Cap Disappointing Road Trip
Three Piece in Baltimore
The trip started with a three-game set in Baltimore, against the then second-place Orioles.
A decent start by rookie Jordan Montgomery turned after an error by second baseman Starlin Castro. The error allowed for two unearned runs to score, and was partially responsible for his outing ending after just 4.1 innings.
The rookie has shown thus far this season that while he has a tremendous upside, he still struggles with his location much too often and needs time to develop.
The offense didn’t pick their pitcher up, going just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
This loss, another in the line of Tanaka starts, befuddled the team as much as it does the fans. When asked about his ace’s rough patch after the game, manager Joe Girardi was fairly generic.
“I think if we knew, we’d have a Nintendo controller and we’d fix it every time, but there’s the human element in this, too. Sometimes guys have tougher years than others. That’s part of it, too.”
He continued by comparing Tanaka’s year thus far to Dallas Keuchel’s struggles last season.
“He [Keuchel] was a Cy Young and great, then he struggled last year and now he’s back on track again. It happens. Nobody’s perfect in this game. This is a hard game. You have to be at your best to be successful.”
Four Games Up North
Despite the thud which ended the Yanks series in Baltimore, they got off to a solid start north of the border. The first game, yet another impressive start for CC Sabathia, was a 12-2 blowout.
Gary Sanchez hit his fifth and sixth home runs of the year; a far cry from his awe-inspiring 20 in just over 50 games last season. Aaron Hicks, who has been one of the team’s best hitters this season, drove in six runs and went 4-for-5 on the day.
Michael Pineda, who has been pitching very well this season, simply didn’t have it on last Friday. He allowed five runs in a gritty five innings, but the Yankees offense rattled off four runs in the sixth on two, two-run home runs (by Aaron Judge and Castro respectively).
Montgomery took the ball on Saturday for his second start of the road trip and was dominant. He outdueled reliever-turned-starter Joe Biagini by tossing six shutout innings and allowing just six baserunners.
The offense was rather quiet against Biagini—who was harmed by some less-than-stellar defense behind him—scoring just three runs throughout his seven innings. Although, when reliever Jason Grilli took the mound, the Bronx Bombers flexed their muscles.
Gardner took Grilli yard, followed by back-to-back-to-back homers (by Holliday, Castro, and Didi Gregorius) later in the eighth which knocked Grilli from the game. The 7-0 victory set the Yanks up with a chance to salvage their road trip with a series win in Toronto.
Jays ace Marcus Stroman took the bump against Sevy and they went toe-to-toe and zero-for-zero on the scoreboard. Stroman allowed two runs, both driven in by Holliday, and went six strong.
Severino, the rising star, outdueled Stroman but made one bad pitch on the day. That pitch was a hanging first-pitch breaking ball to Justin Smoak which landed in the seats and tied the game at two.
Where the Yankees Stand Now
The Yanks take on Boston for a pivotal three-game series in the Bronx starting Tuesday evening. They’ll enter with a two-game lead over them in the AL East, and Baltimore just 3.5 games back.
With Tanaka pitching in the first game, the Yankees just might enter Wednesday evening with their division lead on the line and their former ace, Sabathia, on the mound.
The final game will be a matchup between an improved Pineda and former Cy Young award winner David Price.
This week, and these 13 games as a whole, will be a barometer for how ready this team really is to contend in the AL East. Halfway through, at a time when they could’ve asserted their dominance over division rivals, the Yankees just haven’t stepped up to the plate.