BALTIMORE - What? You thought Chris Young could do it alone?
Apparently, saving the Yankees' season is more than a one-man job, even for Young, whose stunning heroics since moving to the Bronx from Flushing nearly broke Twitter during a wild 18-hour span.
Young has become the straw that stirs the social-media drink, a fizzy cocktail that blends the most delicious -- and combustible -- elements from both sides of the RFK Bridge. But after what happened Friday at Camden Yards, we fear that Young will be little more than Twitter trolling bait for the rest of this month.
That's because the biggest strength of this fading Yankees team -- its deep bullpen -- couldn't make Young's 11th-inning homer stand up in a crushing 2-1 loss to the Orioles in the first game of the doubleheader.
Game 2? Don't ask. The Yankees were shut out for the third time in eight games, 5-0. So to recap: that's two losses, a total of one run in 20 innings and -- wait for it -- 25 strikeouts. Yikes.
"We gotta keep fighting," Joe Girardi said. Technically, yes, because they still have 16 games left. But blowing Game 1 felt like the clincher to us -- emotionally, if not mathematically. When Young homered, we were all so caught up in that phenomenon -- and busy firing off snarky tweets -- that the bottom half of the inning was barely a concern. Nothing could ruin Day 2 of Young-A-Palooza. Or so we thought.
With Girardi in full pedal-to-the-metal mode, he already had burned Dellin Betances and David Robertson. He deviated from conventional wisdom by going to his closer in the ninth inning of a tie game on the road.
That's usually a big no-no in the regular season, but Girardi isn't just living game-to-game now. This season is hinging on every out -- or at least it was -- before he was left with Adam Warren to close this white-knuckler. He couldn't afford to save Robertson, who replaced Betances with one out in the ninth and got the Yankees through the 10th. In his mind, there was no choice but to use him. "You have to," Girardi said. "Because of the situation we're in, I felt I had to try to shut it down there."
This wasn't a panic move, just doing what had to be done, and it worked -- right up until it didn't. Warren, who had pitched in plenty of crucial spots this year, appeared to shrink in this one.
Walking the dangerous Nelson Cruz to begin the 11th wasn't perfect, but it shouldn't have been fatal. Ryan Flaherty's sacrifice bunt was expected. The first troubling sign was seeing Warren hit J.J. Hardy with a pitch and allow a two-out walk to Steve Clevenger to load the bases.
Did the weight of the season start to feel heavy there? "I just think I was a little amped up," Warren said. "Instead of staying back like I normally do, maybe I was rushing a little bit."
With the bases loaded, he tried a first-pitch changeup to Jimmy Paredes, who ripped it down the rightfield line for a walk-off two-run double.
The emotional shift felt like slamming into a brick wall. Young's second dramatic homer in as many days became moot. Afterward, Girardi looked drained. To have a desperately needed win snatched away like that was tough to shake off, particularly with another game in 90 minutes. "Extremely frustrating," he said.
Wouldn't it be funny (weird, not ha-ha) if the only winner in all this turns out to be Young, who seemed headed for oblivion after his career flat-lined with the Mets? After Game 1, he was 8-for-16 with three homers, three doubles and eight RBIs in his last four games with the Yankees.
"You're just pretty much in the mind-set to try to do whatever you can to win a game," he said. "That's all I'm trying to focus on right now." Too bad the Yankees can't get him some help.