Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees in the first...

Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 9, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Ed Zurga

If someone told you in February that the Yankees would be starting an August series in Kansas City with Jameson Taillon as the rotation’s ace, Brett Gardner leading off and Tyler Wade sharing the left side of the infield with Fordham Prep product Andrew Velazquez, the obvious assumption would be the season was lost.

No offense to any of those players, but that’s a pretty big departure from how general manager Brian Cashman drew things up for 2021.

Where is everyone else, you might ask? And what diabolical scenarios led the Yankees to post that Aug. 9 lineup against the Royals?

The short answer is COVID-19. But Aaron Boone added a few more conventional afflictions before Wednesday’s game in revealing that Gleyber Torres was placed on the 10-day injured list with a sprained left thumb and Gio Urshela remained in New York with a setback in his hamstring rehab.

As a result, the IL roster now looks more like the Yankees these days than the functioning Yankees do. Yet this season is not lost. Far from it. Even if Monday night’s 8-6, 11-inning victory over the Royals defied the constraints of time, space and logic.

Few things make sense about this Yankees season, so just toss Monday on the pile of bizarro occurrences. They became the first team in the modern era to lose leads in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings of the same game.

Luke Voit, who got his old job back only when Anthony Rizzo contracted COVID, twice put the Yankees in front, first with a two-out RBI single in the seventh and later with a two-out homer in the ninth.

"It was a grind," Voit said. "But you know what, it was the definition of a team win. Everybody on the lineup card got the job done. Obviously, we had some ups and downs, but we kept fighting back."

None of Voit’s heroics held up, of course. Zack Britton blew the save in the ninth and Clay Holmes failed to hold a two-run lead in the 10th. That allowed the Yankees to join the 1995 Astros as the only teams to blow four saves — but they also became the first club to win such a bullpen meltdown.

It wasn’t until the Yankees put up a three-spot in the 11th — with the final two runs scoring when Gardner’s bases-loaded 100.8-mph grounder ricocheted off the face of shortstop Nicky Lopez — that they were able to finish the job.

"That game, it’s just who these guys are," Boone said. "It hasn’t been easy all year, but they just keep on competing, keep on coming."

Oh, and Boone was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a balk call on Jonathan Loaisiga, whose miscue — combined with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt — cost the Yankees their first lead after another great start (six innings-plus, one unearned run) by Jameson Taillon.

"It was one of the weirder, wilder games I’ve ever seen," said Taillon, who watched the crazier parts on the clubhouse TV.

Taillon was the only one beyond blame for this mess, allowing four hits and leaving the game with a 1-0 lead before Loaisiga allowed an inherited runner to score. He lowered his overall ERA to 3.82 and has a 1.96 ERA in his last nine starts.

But that’s nothing new for the Yankees’ rotation, which has fueled this second-half resurgence despite losing Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery to COVID-19 and Domingo German to a rotator cuff strain.

"I don’t know if I necessarily felt like he was at the end of his rope," Boone said of his decision to remove Taillon after a leadoff single in the seventh. "I did think it was a little bit of a grind for him."

Still, Taillon again pitched like the Yankees’ de facto ace, just as he’s led the charge for the past five weeks or so. Heading into Monday’s game, the rotation had posted a 2.61 ERA since July 6, a span of 26 starts, which was tops in the AL and third overall behind the Brewers (2.13) and Dodgers (2.55). The Yankees’ 1.02 WHIP was the best in MLB during that stretch, as was their .186 opponent’s batting average (the Dodgers are the next closest at .204).

A rotation like that usually is able to cover for seeing too many lineups like the one the Yankees trotted out Monday night, but they had to survive an atrocious bullpen effort to pull out a freaky game that took 4 hours, 52 minutes to complete.

"It was one of those games that you don’t see something like that very often," Gardner said.

Come to think of it, for the 2021 Yankees, maybe it wasn’t all that unusual.


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