The positive impact of the young players to whom the Yankees turned over their season in early August has been undeniable.
A 17-11 month from a suddenly energized club begat a September in which the Yankees have moved squarely into the mix for an American League wild card.
But the use of young players can be accompanied by growing pains, and the Yankees experienced some of those last night.
Second-year righthander Bryan Mitchell — hurt by errors by rookies Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez that produced four unearned runs early in the game — failed to make it out of the third inning, leading to an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers in front of 32,058 at the Stadium.
“They’ve played really well,” Joe Girardi said of his youngsters, “so I’m not going to make too much of it.”
Still . . . “We gave them too many runs, and we weren’t able to score any,” Girardi said.
Judge and Starlin Castro homered for the Yankees (76-67), who had only five hits in losing for the second straight day after a seven-game winning streak. They remained two games behind the Orioles for the second wild card but fell three games behind the Blue Jays for the first wild card and five games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox. They also fell one game behind the Tigers after entering the evening in a tie with Detroit.
Mitchell (1-1), out much of the season after breaking his left big toe at the end of spring training, was not nearly as effective as he had been in his season debut against the Blue Jays five days earlier, when he earned the victory with five scoreless innings. He gave up six runs (two earned) and eight hits in 2 1⁄3 innings.
After allowing a first-inning run, he gave up three unearned runs in the second thanks to a two-out error by rightfielder Judge, who tried to make a backhand catch after a long run but had Chase Utley’s drive to the warning track in right-center glance off the webbing of his glove. Two runs scored, and Utley came home on Corey Seager’s single to make it 4-0.
“I called it. I just should have made the play,” Judge said.
He said the presence of a hard-charging Jacoby Ellsbury, who also pursued the ball and crossed behind him, did not affect him. “I called it a little late and I should have made the play,” he said. “It hit off my glove.”
Mitchell didn’t blame Judge. “It’s tough,” he said. “He’s looking out for Jacoby, he’s looking out for the wall and the ball. That’s a tough play out there. You can’t always expect that.”
Leftfielder Brett Gardner took umbrage with the play being scored an error. “I thought that was a hit,” he said. “He ran a long way. Thankfully, they didn’t collide. I didn’t think it was a mistake.”
Starlin Castro hit his 21st homer to make it 4-1 in the bottom of the second.
That was one of the few mistakes by Dodgers righthander Jose De Leon, who was making his second big-league start. The four relievers who followed him did not make any of significance.
De Leon, 24, allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. One of those hits was a monstrous fifth-inning homer by Judge into the bleachers in left-center that MLB Statcast estimated to have traveled 436 feet with an exit velocity of 115.2 mph, the ninth-highest in the sport this season.
But that homer merely cut the Yankees’ deficit to 6-2 as the NL West-leading Dodgers (81-62), cheered on by what looked and sounded like several thousand of their fans, controlled things throughout. Pinch hitter Yasiel Puig homered in the eighth (his 10th) and Justin Turner hit his 27th homer in the ninth.
Three pitches into the game, Mitchell was in trouble as Utley and NL Rookie of the Year candidate Seager led off with singles. Turner’s fly to center sent Utley to third and Adrian Gonzalez beat out a potential double-play ball to second to make it 1-0.
The Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal singled in the third and went to third on Josh Reddick’s double. Howie Kendrick then topped one to the third-base side of the mound that Mitchell couldn’t quite get to for an infield single that made it 5-1 and put an end to Mitchell’s night.
Girardi called on lefthander Chasen Shreve, who struck out Joc Pederson. With Andrew Toles at the plate, Kendrick took off for second, and when Sanchez threw wide of second and into centerfield, Reddick scored to make it 6-1. The Yankees never threatened after that, aside from Judge’s homer.
“Offensively, we just didn’t do a lot,” Gardner said. “We collectively had a down night.”