When owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this month that it would be a “failure” if the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs, is it possible he was thinking of the quality of the rest of the clubs in the American League wild-card race?
The Yankees beat Seattle, 10-1, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Mariners, who are 1 1⁄2 games out of the second wild-card spot, committed five errors — all of them in the Yankees’ six-run first inning — and dropped to one game over .500.
“We obviously got a couple of breaks there,” master of understatement Chase Headley said.
The Yankees (70-59), who trail the AL East-leading Red Sox by 2½ games, hold the first AL wild-card spot. They have a 3½-game cushion over the second wild card (Minnesota).
Six teams, including the Mariners, are within three games of the Twins. All of them are between one game over and two games under .500. Wild-card fever, anyone?
The Yankees were more than happy to take advantage of the Mariners’ miscues. “It was really strange,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We did a good job of capitalizing.”
Five of the Yankees’ first-inning runs were unearned because of Seattle’s five errors, including three by shortstop Jean Segura, leading many, many, many, many clever people on Twitter to joke about this not being the Little League World Series.
The Mariners had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on three straight one-out hits, the last of which was Nelson Cruz’s RBI double. It could have been worse, but with runners on second and third, Masahiro Tanaka struck out Kyle Seager and got Mitch Haniger on a fly ball to center to end the inning.
The Yankees tied the score against lefthander Andrew Albers (2-1) on a one-out double by Starlin Castro (4-for-4) and Gary Sanchez’s RBI single to left that got past Ben Gamel for error No. 1, allowing Sanchez to reach second.
Aaron Judge walked before Didi Gregorius sent a pop-up to the triangle where the shortstop, leftfielder and centerfielder meet in left-centerfield. They met, but Segura missed the ball after calling off the outfielders, and it fell in for error No. 2 to load the bases.
Headley grounded a potential inning-ending double-play ball to third base, but Seager — uncertain about whether to tag third or throw to second – bobbled the ball for error No. 3 as the Yankees took a 2-1 lead.
After Todd Frazier struck out for the second out, Jacoby Ellsbury — who drove in four runs with a single and three-run homer in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory on Saturday — lined a double to left-center.
Two runs scored easily. As Headley reached third, Segura dropped the one-hop relay throw from Gamel for error No. 4. When Headley headed home, the throw from Segura skipped past catcher Mike Zunino for error No. 5. Headley scored to make it 5-1 and Ellsbury took third.
That’s five errors in the first eight batters, and Ronald Torreyes’ infield single gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead.
“We want to beat the team, so we’ll take whatever mistakes they make,” said Castro, who had a three-error inning of his own in 2011 with the Cubs.
Asked if he remembered it, Castro said: “I don’t want to remember it.”
Seattle almost picked up another error on Castro’s leadoff grounder to third in the second. Seager threw high to first, but Castro might have beaten it out anyway, and the overworked official scorer credited Castro with a single.
In the third, the Yankees used three two-out singles, the last by Castro, to score a seventh run. Headley hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 8-1 and pinch hitter Greg Bird added a two-run single in the seventh.
Tanaka (10-10) allowed one run, six hits and a walk in seven innings, striking out 10.
“I thought his stuff was really good,” said Girardi, who was ejected in the third inning for vociferously arguing a replay review call. “I got to watch most of it on TV.”