If there were a tangible prize for doing the best at the summer trading deadline, the Yankees quite likely would have been raising a banner Tuesday night. As it was, they have seen palpable rewards for their hot play and skillful dealing: huge crowds and massive TV audiences. Now comes the hard part.
Now it is a matter of grinding it out, day by day, right into October. They have to get past games like the one last night, when they did not have quite enough of anything to avoid a 4-3 loss to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium. The loss dropped the Yankees a half-game behind the Red Sox in the AL East
The way they have been performing at the 11th hour, both on and off the field, it was natural to expect them to pull out a victory when they made it quite exciting for the 43,238 fans, right to the last pitch. When Detroit closer Shane Greene sent potential tying run Jacoby Ellsbury from first to third with an errant pickoff throw with two outs in the ninth, it looked like the Yankees were primed for more last-second heroics. It would have followed the trend the Yankees stoked by acquiring Sonny Gray right before the deadline Monday.
Being the apparent champion of the trading season has its advantages. The Yankees game Monday night drew the largest rating on YES since Derek Jeter’s final home game, Sept. 25, 2014.
But things just did not work out this time. In the ninth, Brett Gardner was intentionally walked and tantalizingly stole second, standing in scoring position as the winning run with Clint Frazier (no stranger to late drama) at bat.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, or it’s a heartbreaking feeling, not coming through,” Frazier said, after having popped out to shortstop to end it. “You can’t get them all.”
No, nothing is automatic or even easy. CC Sabathia, (9-4, 3.81 ERA), making his 500th career start, did not have enough of a slider or a changeup, and allowed all the Tigers runs on two homers—a three-run shot to right by John Hicks in the second inning and a bases-empty blast to left by Justin Upton in the third.
Nor did the Yankees have enough offense outside of the three runs Didi Gregorius produced with a two-run homer against starter Anibal Sanchez in the fourth or the eighth-inning single on the only pitch thrown by reliever Daniel Stumpf. They did have a runner, Tyler Wade, on third with no outs in the third inning and failed to score him.
“That’s probably the difference in the game,” Joe Girardi said.
He credited Sabathia, who allowed the four runs and six hits in six innings, for showing enough grit to keep the Yankees in the game. And despite not having one of their best nights all around (Aaron Judge went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .299), the Yankees sure did make it exciting. Gardner kept it close in the top of the ninth by fielding Andrew Romine’s single and firing home to retire James McCann trying to score from second.
Gardner was the potential winning run in the bottom of the ninth after Ellsbury, a pinch hitter, walked. The Tigers decided to walk him after the error moved Ellsbury to third.
“Gardy has done enough in the past to earn the respect and not get pitched to in that situation,” Frazier said. “He showed it last year. I’m the young guy coming up, still trying to get my feet on the ground. I was the weak link in their eyes. They capitalized on what they wanted to do.”
Gregorius said, “There’s always the next time. You can’t win them all.”
The Yankees are confident enough now to believe that the next time is going to work out. They are also realistic enough to know that it is going to be a struggle.
“I felt like I was out there, if I could just keep it close . . . ” Sabathia said. “These guys find a way to score runs later in the game. We just came up short today.”