DUNEDIN, Fla. —– Jameson Taillon sounded the alarm late Tuesday night.
"We're not getting deep enough into games," the righthander said of the Yankees' rotation, Gerrit Cole excluded. "We're not getting it done."
That again was the case Wednesday afternoon in a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays, a defeat secured when Bo Bichette skied a Chad Green curveball just over the wall in right-center for a walk-off homer to start the ninth.
It was Bichette’s second homer of the day, which sent the Yankees (5-7) to a disappointing 2-4 trip that started with two straight losses to the Rays, who come to the Stadium for a series Friday night.
"We’ve got to play better in every area," said Aaron Boone, whose team was outhit, 12-5, with three of those hits, including two homers, coming courtesy of Aaron Judge. "There's some mistakes we're making. Obviously, the ‘pen has done a really nice job for us. When you're not banging, you’ve got to do little things really well, and that's catch the ball, run the bases. We know eventually we are going to start banging. I have a ton of confidence in our guys and can't wait to see them turn the corner."
The Yankees’ lack of consistent hitting and lack of pitchers – again, those not named Cole – giving the club length were the main culprits for the rough trip.
Kluber, whose ERA ticked to 6.10 in three starts, allowed three runs, four hits and two walks over four innings. It was the first time in his career Kluber has lasted four innings or fewer in three straight regular season starts.
"You can only pitch as long as they let you," Kluber said, clarifying later he wasn’t criticizing the decision to pull him after four. "I think that things are improving. I'm still making more mistakes throughout the course of the game than I would like to. I think those mistakes are becoming less and less each time out. Obviously, the goal is to get rid of all the mistakes. I don't know if that's realistic, so to speak. That’s always the goal, to be as perfect as possible."
The bullpen, taxed more nights than not this season, was solid, but Jonathan Loaisiga got touched for a run, as did Green, who had not allowed an earned run until Wednesday.
Judge, now hitting .282 with four homers and a .953 OPS, gave Kluber a lead before he took the mound, stepping in with one out in the first and hammering a full-count cutter to left for a 1-0 lead. It represented the Yankees’ first first-inning run of the season.
"As a group right now we’re losing too many opportunities with guys in scoring position," said Gleyber Torres, who went 1-for-2 with two walks. "We’re not being consistent as a group right now. But it’s really early."
Hitting with runners on wasn’t the primary issue Wednesday as the Yankees had few opportunities, going 1-for-3 with RISP and stranding three.
"Kind of just inconsistent," Judge said of the offense. "That’s the word I keep coming back to. We’re just not consistently having quality at-bats, putting the ball in play when we need to, situational hitting. It's just kind of all of that together isn't a good recipe."
Kluber, who labored through a scoreless 23-pitch first, put his team in a hole in the second. When Rowdy Tellez singled and Alejandro Kirk, the No. 8 hitter, ripped a 1-and-1 curveball to left to give Toronto (6-6) a 2-1 lead.
T.J. Zeuch retired the Yankees in order in the third on 15 pitches, then saw his lead increase in the bottom half when Bichette roped a 0-and-1 sinker to right-center, a no-doubter that made it 3-1. Judge highlighted a three-run fourth with his second homer and Gio Urshela’s two-run single later in the inning made it 4-3. But Loaisiga allowed the run in the sixth – loading the bases with none out, the run coming in on a wild pitch Kyle Higashioka couldn’t block – that made it 4-4. Where it stayed until Bichette ended it.
"We just haven’t been able to get it done lately," Judge said. "It’s time to regroup and figure out what we need to work on and get back to it."