Anthony Rizzo of the Yankees strikes out in the ninth inning...

Anthony Rizzo of the Yankees strikes out in the ninth inning against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Oswaldo Cabrera drifted back to the warning track in rightfield, was stopped by the wall, then jumped straight up to rob the Blue Jays’ Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of a home run on the first pitch of Friday night’s game.

That was about as good as it got for the slumping Yankees.

The sellout crowd of 46,194 at the Stadium erupted. Cabrera provided them another jolt with a half-flex after the catch as he wore a look of unadulterated joy on his face. Aaron Judge charged over from center to congratulate the energetic rookie.

It all seemed to portend a pleasant night at the ballpark for the home team and its crowd.

Not exactly.

The Cabrera catch turned out to be pretty much the only highlight for the Yankees, whose offense slumbered again throughout a 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays.

The Yankees, shut out for the fifth time in their last 13 games and held to two or fewer runs for the eighth time in that span, were outhit 8-4. They got one runner as far as second base, and that was in the first inning.

Amazingly, the Yankees haven’t had a batter come to the plate with a lead since last Saturday.

The Yankees (73-47), 3-13 in their last 16 games and 12-24 in their last 36, saw their AL East lead over second-place Toronto trimmed to eight games, the lowest it has been since a 7 1⁄2 -game cushion on June 10. It had reached 15 1⁄2 games on July 8.

Afterward, Aaron Boone chose to forgo the Pollyanna words that frustrate fans after a tough loss or tough stretch of games.

“I don’t give a crap about the lead,’’ he said. “Play better. We’ll handle it. You can talk about that — eight, nine, seven, 10 — we need to play better. If we play like this, it’s not going to matter anyway. We handle our business, we’re in a great spot. We understand that. But we need to handle our business.

“We should be ticked off right now and we need to start playing better. Plain and simple.”

Does he get the sense that his players are ticked off? “I do,’’ he said. “One of the things we preach is having that consistency and being able to handle the good and the bad. But you should be a little [ticked] off right now. We have a really good team and it’s been long enough now to where it’s been an extended period of struggle. We need to do better.”

What tells Boone the Yankees will turn it around? “Track record,’’ he said. “We’ve done it most of the year. I have total faith in that room and those players. This is unique in that a lot of them are going through a tough period together. Usually you have a handful of guys hot, a couple of guys struggling. We’ve got more than our share of struggling right now. But we’ve got to find a way.

“I don’t really care about the number [division lead]. The number is, if we play like this and keep walking away at the end of the night, it ain’t going to matter. If we get it together and play our game, then we’ll run away. So eight, nine, 10, seven, five, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to start racking up some wins. And hopefully that starts tomorrow afternoon.

“You pour a lot into trying to shake hands at the end of the day, and we’ve able to do that on balance on a really high clip this year. We’ve hit a rough patch and we’ve got to dig ourselves out. We can sit here and I can keep answering questions and talk about it . . . we’ve got to go do it. And the good news is, we’ve got all the pieces in that room to do that. I know that’s coming, I know it’s going to happen, but it really sucks going through it.”

“We’re going through a tough stretch,'' DJ LeMahieu said. "It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating when you know that we’re better than how we’re playing . . . I feel like we’re pressing a little bit. It’s a lot of the things that happen when you’re not going well as an offense. We just have to keep going. I know we have it in us.”

Boone said the room should be ticked off. Is LeMahieu? “Yeah. Ticked off. Frustrated. All of it. It’s frustrating.”

How does a team get out of that? “Don’t have an easy answer, but the last thing we can do is try to do more than we’re capable,'' LeMahieu said. "If everyone just does their job, what they’re capable of, as a unit, we’re going have a lot of benefits from that. But it’s hard to do. Everyone wants to be the guy. But just like we’ve all been talking about, as a group and individually, just staying within ourselves and having good ABs.”

Blue Jays righthander Kevin Gausman (9-9, 2.99) was brilliant, allowing four hits and one walk in seven innings in which he struck out seven.

Jameson Taillon, though not as bad as he’s been of late, wasn’t good enough, allowing three runs — two on a home run by Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth — and six hits in five innings-plus. Some tremendous work by Lou Trivino in the sixth — he came on with runners at the corners and none out and escaped the jam — kept Taillon’s line from being far worse. 

“I think everyone’s frustrated, but all we can do is pull for each other and keep believing in ourselves,'' Taillon said. "We understand this is the same group that won a bunch of games earlier in the year, and we can do it again. We just need to get that little spark and get going again.”

The Yankees remained 3 1/2 games behind the Astros, whom they led by nine games on June 18, in the battle for the American League’s best record.

The loudest cheers of the night came on the highlight-reel catch by Cabrera, who became the first player in franchise history to start at three different positions in his first three games (the natural infielder played third base in his MLB debut Wednesday and shortstop on Thursday). But for the Yankees, it was all downhill after that.

Aaron Judge went 0-for-2 with a walk and a catcher’s interference, dropping him to 2-for-23 in the last seven games.

Aroldis Chapman struggled again, allowing a one-out single in the ninth, throwing a wild pitch and issuing two walks on nine pitches before being replaced by Ron Marinaccio, who gave up a sacrifice fly by Danny Jansen.

Whit Merrifield led off the third with a single and Cavan Biggio sent a bullet double to right that Cabrera had no chance to catch. Taillon struck out Jansen swinging at a curveball for the first out, but with the infield back, Gurriel’s groundout to short gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.

Alejandro Kirk led off the fourth with a single and Hernandez drove a first-pitch fastball to left-center for his 18th homer and a three-run lead. Of Taillon’s 20 homers allowed this season, 12 have come in his last nine starts.

Through four innings, Gausman had allowed one hit — a single by Donaldson with two outs in the first — and struck out six. His streak of consecutive batters retired ended when Gleyber Torres led off the fifth with a single. Isiah Kiner-Falefa then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, which elicited the first loud boos of the night.

They were far from the last.

  


 

  

  

  

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