BOSTON – If the Yankees had not lost in devastating fashion to the Red Sox on Sunday night, we all might be talking about Shane Robinson and a seventh-inning plate appearance that got lost in the shuffle.
The Yankees trailed 1-0 and had runners on first and second with none out when Boston manager Alex Cora removed starter David Price and called on righthander Heath Hembree.
Robinson, who started in rightfield against the lefthanded Price, is a daily reminder that the Yankees are without Aaron Judge, who is weeks away from returning from a broken wrist.
Judge is 6-7 and 282 pounds. He hits balls a long, long way. He is the biggest star in the Yankees' universe and, in only his second season, has become one of the faces of baseball.
Robinson is listed at 5-9, but that’s an exaggeration of at least two inches. He weighs 170 pounds. At age 33, he has played in 443 big-league games, including Sunday’s. He has seven career home runs. If he lasts the rest of the season without being sent back to Triple-A, that would be a career milestone.
Still, there Robinson was in the batter’s box against Hembree. Manager Aaron Boone wanted Robinson to bunt. If successful, it would have been his second sacrifice bunt of the night, which is something the Yankees rarely do. They went into Sunday ranked 25th in baseball with eight sacrifice hits, which they still are called in the official statistics.
Robinson’s first try trickled foul down the first-base line. On the next pitch, he squared early and hit the deck on a 95-mph up-and-in fastball.
On the next pitch, Robinson again hit the deck, but the 96-mph inside pitch hit his bat and went foul for strike two.
On 1-and-2, Robinson squared to bunt again. Again, the pitch was up and in at 95 mph. Robinson – all “5-9” of him – took a step or two toward the mound and the 6-4, 210-pound Hembree. Robinson thought better of it and got back in the box.
Next pitch: ball three. On 3-and-2, Boone took off the bunt and Robinson fouled off a slider.
On the seventh pitch of the plate appearance, Robinson took a slider for ball four to load the bases and bring up the top of the order.
Robinson failed to get the bunt down, but he succeeded in a way that gave the Yankees life and hope when they were desperate both for a run and a win.
Aaron Hicks followed with a hot shot to short that hit off the glove of Xander Bogaerts for a two-run error and the first Yankees lead since Thursday. If Bogaerts had fielded the ball, it would have been a run-scoring double play. Instead, it was two runs in and runners on first and third.
Giancarlo Stanton followed with an RBI single. One batter later, Gleyber Torres hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
Before the seventh inning on Sunday, the Yankees had scored two runs in the previous 24 innings. They were staring at a four-game sweep, a five-game losing streak and the effective end of the AL East race.
All of those things came true when the Red Sox rallied for three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Aroldis Chapman and won the game, 5-4, on Andrew Benintendi’s two-out RBI single off Jonathan Holder in the 10th.
That left the Yankees 9 1/2 games back in the division. Robinson night not even be on the roster when these teams meet again on Sept. 18 at Yankee Stadium. But he’ll always have that seventh-inning walk on Sunday night, a rare bright spot from one of the worst nights in recent Yankees history.