The most memorable play of a night to forget for the Yankees on Friday occurred in the first inning of their 10-3 loss to the Mets.
The Yankees appeared to escape the bottom of the first with their 1-0 lead intact when Joey Gallo threw out Jonathan Villar at the plate to end the inning, with the one-hop throw arriving a country mile ahead of Villar.
But Villar, with nothing to lose, attempted to deke Gary Sanchez, starting his slide late. Sanchez had the plate blocked but for some reason moved to the side while applying the tag to Villar’s helmet as the Mets infielder's foot touched the plate.
Plate umpire Ted Barrett called Villar out, but the call was overturned after the Mets challenged.
"Obviously, he’s going to be out easy,’" Aaron Boone said. "It’s a great throw by Joey. And I think [Sanchez] felt like he [Villar] was just, because he was so out, that he would pull up. Well, he [Sanchez] got out of his crouch and athletic position. In that spot where you’ve got a guy dead to rights, you’ve got to just lower your body, maybe initiate the contact, but remain athletic in your legs."
It was a brutal, inexcusable defensive lapse for a catcher.
But now for some reality:
It would be flat-out absurd to say that play, as bad as it was, somehow "cost" the Yankees the game.
Anyone watching the Yankees’ overall performance Friday — which included shoddy defense by far more than just Sanchez, a rare off night by Jordan Montgomery and the offense again manufacturing little — and concluding that one play was the difference simply wasn’t paying attention.
Yes, the Yankees would have maintained a 1-0 lead had Sanchez played it correctly, and Montgomery would have thrown fewer pitches in the inning.
But assuming that Montgomery, who had one of his worst outings of what otherwise has been a terrific season, would have allowed, say, one or two runs instead of seven (five earned), and that the Yankees magically would have played far better than they did after that play — given how poorly they have been playing for nearly two weeks — is simply a bridge too far.
The play "set the tone" for the loss only in a broad sense, as a good representation of how the Yankees have played of late overall. They had lost seven straight and 11 of their last 13 entering Saturday night,
Using the set-the-tone narrative incorrectly allows Sanchez to serve as a scapegoat and lets everyone else off easy.
Sanchez’s blunder didn’t cause Gio Urshela to make a wild throw home with the bases loaded in the third inning. It didn’t cause Gleyber Torres to airmail Anthony Rizzo at first on what should have been a routine inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the seventh inning.
And Sanchez’s mistake isn’t what transformed Mets rookie righty Tylor Megill, who came in 2-4 with a 4.20 ERA but ended up going a career-best seven innings and striking out a career-best 10, into Jacob deGrom against a floundering Yankees offense.
As irritated as he clearly was with Sanchez’s blunder and while acknowledging it "possibly" impacted his team the rest of the game, Boone ultimately didn’t see it as an alibi.
"We came right back in and grabbed the lead," said Boone, referring to the solo homer by Gallo in the second inning that put the Yankees ahead 2-1.
In the end, he said at least a couple of times: "You’ve got to move on, and you got to deal with it, and you can't let it become a factor."