Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on against the Chicago White...

Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning in Game Two of an MLB doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 22, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Defining a crisis for the Yankees is relative when they’re off to a 30-13 start and sit comfortably atop the AL East.

How bad could things really be?

Put it this way: the situation already was deteriorating when the Yankees first showed up for work Tuesday afternoon, and progressively got worse by the hour, on a variety of fronts.

The one consolation? At least they finally outlasted the Orioles, 7-6, in 11 innings to avoid any further despair. Jose Trevino, who delivered three RBIs from the No. 9 spot, finished it with a walkoff single to snap the Yankees’ three-game losing streak.

Along the way, however, the Yankees lost Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh inning to what the team described as right calf soreness and bid adieu to the invincibility of reliever Michael King, who imploded in the seventh for his worst performance this season. The O’s pounded him for two hits, three runs and a homer to take a stunning 5-3 lead and push King’s ERA from 2.03 to 2.96. He also failed to record a strikeout for the first time in 14 appearances. 

The Yankees began the day mired in a three-game losing streak, during which they scored a grand total of five runs -- four of them supplied by Aaron Judge. And more trouble sprouted soon after.

There was the lingering Josh Donaldson mess, with Judge basically praising Tim Anderson late Monday when asked about his teammate’s one-game suspension (currently under appeal). Donaldson has been away from the team since Sunday as the Yankees made him the third player to be placed on the COVID IL in a 24-hour span, despite none of them testing positive, and it probably wasn’t the worst development to keep him away from the Bronx.

Anderson punched a sizable hole in Donaldson’s “inside joke” defense Tuesday when the White Sox shortstop said he called him “Jackie” once back in 2019 — and Anderson promptly told Donaldson never to talk to him again.

“I won’t speak to you, you won’t speak to me, if that’s how you’re going to refer to me,” Anderson told reporters Tuesday in Chicago. “I knew exactly what he was doing.”

Still, Donaldson isn’t really a front-burner issue for the Yankees at the moment. Not until he’s cleared to play again, and even then, the suspension is likely to hold up to his appeal. But Aaron Boone & Co. had plenty on their plate heading into Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, who shook off a pair of Judge homers the previous night and dented Gerrit Cole for five runs in Monday’s 6-4 victory, Baltimore’s fourth in 11 games between the two clubs.

Losing to the woeful O’s is always a cause for concern, and the Yankees remained shorthanded for the middle game, with Joey Gallo still recovering from a non-COVID illness as Kyle Higashioka was cleared to return. While it was expected that Aroldis Chapman would end up on the IL, the Yankees finally made the move official Tuesday, due to Achilles tendinitis (an ominous diagnosis for a closer that’s looked way too vulnerable lately).

Perhaps the most worrisome development? That went down about 90 minutes before first pitch, when DJ LeMahieu was scratched from Tuesday’s starting lineup for what the team described as “left wrist discomfort.” The timing was curious, considering that LeMahieu supposedly just had the night off Monday — he did pinch hit — and it seemed more than a coincidence for him to now be hurting as well.

If there was an optimal time to be experiencing this degree of adversity, a visit by the Orioles would seem to do the trick. But the previous 72 hours, going back to Saturday’s on-field altercations between Anderson and Donaldson, were a lot for the Yankees to handle — regardless of how coolly Boone handled pregame questions about his team’s disarray, specifically when I asked if it seemed like they were “scrambling” to cope.

“2020 and 2021 felt like a scramble,” Boone said. “I mean, there’s been hours over the last few days where it’s been a little bit of a scramble. But nothing we can’t handle.”

Compared with those two COVID-ravaged seasons, what the Yankees are dealing with now definitely doesn’t reach the level of that magnitude. There were periods during those years when outbreaks took large chunks of Boone’s roster, often on extremely short notice.

But that doesn’t make the Yankees’ current struggle any less real. With Chapman’s injury coming back-to-back with Chad Green being lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery, a reliable strength of this team was significantly weakened almost overnight. Heading into Tuesday, the bullpen’s 3.10 ERA ranked fourth in the majors.

Fortunately, the Yankees have Clay Holmes to get the first crack at the additional save chances. His current 21-inning scoreless streak is not only the longest in baseball, but the longest by a Yankees reliever in a single season since Kerry Wood strung together 23 1/3 innings in 2010.

However, Holmes isn’t going to do them much good unless someone other than Judge decides to chip in with some offensive production. On Monday, Judge became only the second Yankee to hammer four multi-homer games through the team’s first 42 on the schedule. The other? Babe Ruth, in 1928.

The Yankees were 19-1 this season when scoring five runs, but spreading them across three games didn’t work out so well, which is why Boone & Co. found themselves Tuesday in the club’s first legitimate sinkhole.

“I think that’s fair,” Boone said. “We know it’s coming. You’re gonna have these bumps along the way.”

But so many, so quickly, can rattle even the most confident first-place teams. Full-blown crisis or not, the Yankees were trending in that direction.