If the Yankees don’t start playing better, their time in the playoffs might not last much longer than Aaron Boone lasted in Friday night’s 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Marlins at Yankee Stadium.
Boone was ejected by plate umpire John Tumpane in the bottom of the first inning after arguing a questionable — sorry, not questionable, simply horrendous — low strike three call on Aaron Judge.
Perhaps Boone already was ticked off because the Yankees were down 3-0 after Garrett Cooper hit a three-run homer off J.A. Happ with two outs in the top of the first. Or perhaps the manager was feeling edgy because the Yankees had lost four of five coming in.
Now it’s five of six after a throwing error by Kyle Higashioka on a botched rundown in the 10th inning led to the eventual winning run for Miami, which clinched its first postseason berth since 2003 despite managing only three hits.
The Yankees committed four errors for the second time in three games. They failed to score in the 10th despite loading the bases with one out. DJ LeMahieu, who leads the American League in batting average at .348, grounded into a game-ending 6-6-3 double play.
The Yankees, who did not homer for the fifth straight game and hit into five double plays, tied
the score on Judge’s two-out RBI single in the eighth.
With a runner on third and one out in the 10th, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop Gleyber Torres, but after receiving Torres’ throw to the plate, Higashioka gave himself a poor angle as he ran Monte Harrison back to third and pegged him in the back with a late throw. Jesus Aguilar’s sacrifice fly to right give the Marlins the lead.
The Yankees started the bottom of the 10th with Tyler Wade as the free runner on second. Brandon Kintzler opened the inning by walking Torres.
Higashioka then popped up a bunt, which was caught by a sliding Aguilar coming in like a freight train from first base.
With Clint Frazier at the plate, Wade and Torres executed a double steal and Frazier walked to load the bases. That brought up LeMahieu, who shockingly did not come through. He had been 11-for-19 with the bases loaded since joining the club last year.
"I like our chances getting up there with bases loaded and DJ coming up, man," Judge said. "He’s one of the best players in the game, one of the best clutch-situation hitters I’ve ever been around. I was surprised . . . There’s quite a few things throughout the game that if it would have went different or if we would have done a little better job on certain things, we don’t get to that position. I think back to the rundown the inning before or different opportunities — we had guys on base and weren’t able to capitalize. It doesn’t really come down to that last inning. There’s countless times throughout the game we could have changed the outcome of the game.’’
Happ threw one bad pitch — well, nine bad pitches, if you count the two two-out walks that preceded Cooper’s three-run home run to right in the first.
Happ, who had posted a 1.93 ERA in his previous six starts, went on to complete five innings without walking another batter or giving up another run.
"I don’t know that I’m concerned," he said of his team’s recent play. "It hasn’t been clean or pretty at times, but I think if there’s one thing we’ve seen on the outside of that previous stretch, it’s that really on any given night, things can change. And we know who we have in that locker room. We’re going to rest and come back tomorrow and hopefully put this one behind us and play a little better baseball. We know we can."
The Yankees made it 3-2 in the third against Sandy Alcantara on Aaron Hicks’ two-out, two-run double.
Alcantara struck out nine in 7 1⁄3 innings.
He exited after striking out Frazier, one pitch after Mike Tauchman was sent back to first base by the umpires after a steal of second.
The umpires ruled that Tumpane — that man again — interfered with catcher Chad Wallach when he reared back to throw to second and crashed his elbow into Tumpane’s mask.
Tumpane was not injured. But instead of a man on second and none out, Tauchman was sent back to first. He ended up back on second two batters later when Yimi Garcia threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt, and Judge then dumped a tying single to right.
Toronto beat Baltimore, 10-5, on Friday night, so in the battle for second place, the Yankees (32-26) lead the Blue Jays (31-27) by one game with two games remaining.
Even one Toronto loss in the final two games against Baltimore would clinch second for the Yankees, but if the Jays sweep the series, the Yankees will have to beat the Marlins twice to beat out Toronto.
Put another way, if the two teams finish tied at 33-27, the Blue Jays will finish second. If they finish tied at 32-28, the Yankees will finish second. And no matter what happens, the Yankees will play the wild-card round on the road.
The Marlins celebrated their playoff berth — 2020 style — on the infield at Yankee Stadium. It was a much more subdued party than the last time the Marlins celebrated in the Bronx — after beating the Yankees in Game 6 to win the 2003 World Series. "Not happy about it," Judge said. "I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field. I’ve seen that too much."
Boone had seen enough when Judge was called out in the first on a pitch below his knees. Was he trying to fire up his team when he got ejected?
"No, it was just reacting to a terrible call and following it up," he said. "Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down. That was clearly pretty bad."
So how do the Yankees fix this?
"[We have to] continue to work at being fundamentally sound," Boone said. "That’s where we’ve let down a little bit. But you don’t want guys going out and not playing free and easy and like they’re capable of. It’s continue to make sure we’re beating on the repetitions on the fundamentals and clean it up."