Blame Gary Sanchez all you want for the dumpster fire that was an 11-3 Yankees loss to Cleveland on Saturday afternoon at the Stadium.
The polarizing catcher’s whiff on a foul pop behind the plate in Cleveland's seven-run fifth inning no doubt played a part in the blowout. But as Derek Jeter used to say — and the Hall of Famer is far from the only one who has said it — "it’s never one thing" that leads to a loss.
So while Sanchez’s miss — which extended Oscar Mercado’s at-bat in an inning in which Cleveland turned a 1-0 lead into an 8-0 laugher — was the most memorable play of an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Yankees, it also ignores other realities.
Such as rookie righty Luis Gil, whose command issues were apparent at the start and who was fortunate to take a 1-0 deficit into the fifth.
Or Albert Abreu, solid to at times excellent this season for the Yankees (he’s had 10 stints in the big leagues in 2021), replacing Gil and alternating between not coming close to the plate and finding too much of it.
Or a Yankees offense that erupted for five homers on Friday being held scoreless for six innings by Aaron Civale (11-4) before Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th homer, a drive into the Yankees' bullpen in the seventh that made it 10-1. Luke Voit added a long two-run homer to left in the eighth.
The Yankees were outhit 12-8 and Yu Chang, former Met Andres Gimenez, Franmil Reyes and Jose Ramirez homered for Cleveland (72-74). Gimenez's three-run homer to right off Abreu with two outs in the fifth capped the seven-run inning, and Reyes and Chang also drove in three runs each. Reyes had a two-run shot in the sixth that made it 10-0 and Chang and Ramirez hit solo shots.
"We’ve got to be a goldfish and have a 10-second memory," Voit said of the afternoon overall.
Gil, who came in 1-0 with a 2.88 ERA in five starts but with 15 walks in 25 innings, allowed three runs (two earned), three hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings.
After Gil struck out Harold Ramirez swinging at a slider to start the second, he hung a 1-and-2 slider to Chang, who belted it into the bleachers in left-center to make it 1-0. It stayed that way until the fifth.
Myles Straw flied to Judge to start the inning and Mercado looked as if he had made a quick second out when he popped one sky-high behind the plate. But Sanchez, seemingly in position to make the catch just a couple of steps from the plate, instead saw the ball land behind him. With his back to the plate, he had to reach back for it and never touched it, with the ball nearly hitting Mercado as he walked toward the dugout after pounding his bat against the ground.
"Definitely a play I’m used to making," Sanchez said through his interpreter. "Just a bad read there. I think I got under it too much, and when the ball’s coming down it has backspin and I wasn’t in a good position to catch it."
Gil hit Mercado with his next pitch and then walked Ramirez.
"We’re all human and we’re going to make mistakes from time to time," Gil said through his interpreter. "Following that, I was trying to execute a good fastball in and unfortunately ended up hitting the batter. But I can tell you that [Sanchez’s error] didn’t affect me at all."
In came Abreu, who allowed an RBI double to left by Reyes and hit Harold Ramirez. Chang lined a two-run double down the rightfield line, Owen Miller had an RBI single and, after Austin Hedges hit a foul pop to Sanchez — an easy catch that prompted a derisive roar from the crowd — Gimenez’s three-run homer made it 8-0.
The Yankees (83-66) are 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox (85-65), who hold the American League's first wild card, and a half-game behind the Blue Jays (83-65) for the second wild card.
Gerrit Cole will start on Sunday afternoon as the Yankees try to take two of three in the series.
"We have to win a lot of these games if we’re going to be where we want to be," Aaron Boone said. "I’d like to roll off however many in a row, especially right now. This time of year, these losses sting a little bit more. But you also realize the urgency of tomorrow and we have to get back on the horse and go out and hopefully play a really strong game with our ace going."