BALTIMORE — Can’t bench 'em all.
The Yankees’ issues run far deeper than Gary Sanchez.
Benching the slumping catcher, as they did Sunday afternoon, didn’t come close to providing a lift to a slumbering offense. They were shut down by a pitcher making his major-league debut in a lethargic 5-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.
The Yankees had only four hits, three by Miguel Andujar. After beating the Orioles in the opener of the four-game series to extend their winning streak against Baltimore to 19 games, they were outscored 17-5 as they dropped the next three games.
“I think we’re frustrated, I think guys are [ticked] off and it’s understandable,” Aaron Boone said. “But we have to get through it, we have to fight our way through it. We have a big series starting tomorrow.”
The loss plunged the Yankees into third place in the AL East as the Blue Jays won in Boston to move into sole possession of second. The Yankees, who will face the Blue Jays 10 times in their next 17 games, will start a three-game series against them in Buffalo on Monday night.
The Yankees are 13-18 since their 8-1 start and 5-13 since their 16-6 start. At least for now, they find themselves in the strange position of being the eighth seed in the American League postseason standings, only two games ahead of the Orioles (who were 54-108 last season) and Tigers (who were 47-114 in 2019).
“Very disappointing the way we‘ve played,” Brett Gardner said. “We’ve got some baseball left, we’re still in a position to make the playoffs and attain our goal, which is to be the last team standing, but the way we’ve played lately is not acceptable. We just have to be better, starting with me.”
Masahiro Tanaka (1-2, 3.38) shrugged off DJ Stewart’s two-run homer in the first inning to pitch reasonably well. He left with the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the sixth and was charged with four runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings as Luis Cessa allowed two inherited runners to score.
“I think I was off mechanically a little bit [in the first],” Tanaka said through his interpreter. “After that inning, I think I was able to make some mechanical adjustments to put myself back on track.”
The same could not be said of the offense, which came in 5-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the first three games of the series, including 0-for-9 Saturday, and went 0-for-6 in those situations Sunday.
“I know guys came in with a really good mindset and believing that this was the day to turn it around, but it felt like we were pressing a little bit out there today,” Boone said. “And that can get you in trouble.”
Orioles righthander Dean Kremer was the beneficiary. In his major-league debut, he allowed one run and one hit in six innings. Kremer, who at one point retired 12 straight, walked three and struck out seven.
“I have no doubt that we’re going to be able to put this behind us,” said Andujar, who committed a huge error to start the sixth that contributed to two unearned runs that made it 4-1.
The afternoon could not have started much worse for the Yankees as Stewart hit his third home run in a span of five pitches over three at-bats in the last two games. He entered Saturday 0-for-17 to start the season.
The Yankees made it 2-1 in the second. Clint. Frazier, one of the few in the lineup not slumping, worked a leadoff walk and eventually scored when 40-year-old Erik Kratz, starting in place of Sanchez, beat out a potential double-play ball.
“The bottom line is, we've got one or two new guys in our clubhouse, but for the most part we've got guys that were a big part of this team last year and have been a part of the organization for a while, and we're not accustomed to losing,” Gardner said. “We go out there every day and we expect to win, and recently we haven't done a good job of that.
"So I think that any time you have tough times, it can be difficult, especially knowing that the season is as short as it is. But as I said, we've got three weeks left, there's a lot of guys in that room that are frustrated, they're disappointed and itching to turn their season around, myself included. So hopefully that's right around the corner, because we don't have much time left.”