The Yankees’ uncanny flair for catastrophe again ran amok during Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Red Sox, a defeat so demoralizing that even manager Aaron Boone — a veritable smile emoji in pinstripes — couldn’t muster the usual postgame sunshine for the public’s consumption.
Through everything the Yankees have absorbed, with each Worst Loss of the Season soon trumped by the next one, Boone’s relentlessly positive spin is always there amid the piles of rubble. His favorite catchphrases are picked up, dusted off and recycled in his effort to move past yet another disaster.
But that didn’t happen Sunday.
For really the first time, Boone looked shaken after the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on Domingo German’s seven no-hit innings and blew a 4-0 lead in the eighth, due in part to decisions the manager later second-guessed himself on. It wasn’t all Boone’s fault that the Red Sox reeled off five straight hits that inning and scored five runs, with most of the damage coming against Jonathan Loaisiga. But there was plenty of blame to go around for that spectacular implosion, and Boone was shellshocked by his own role in sabotaging the team.
To be fair, the decision to send German out for the eighth at 90 pitches (the most he had thrown since May 27) is among the most difficult for a manager. Entering the game, Boone had no intention of German being anywhere near that total, saying afterward his target was 80. But after German blowtorched the fearsome heart of Boston’s order in the seventh, striking out four — Xander Bogaerts reached on Gary Sanchez’s passed ball — Boone let himself be swayed by what he was seeing.
And once Alex Verdugo led off the eighth by swatting a 1-and-1 curveball over Greg Allen’s head for a double, the fuse was lit. Boone immediately pulled German, but Loaisiga had nothing, and Zack Britton’s damage control was too little, too late.
"I already knew we were kind of in that danger zone a little bit," Boone said of German, who walked one and struck out 10. "So just going hitter to hitter at that point. Verdugo put a good swing on him and we were set up on the back end and just couldn’t get it done today."
That’s an understatement. Loaisiga had just returned from the COVID-19 injured list for Saturday’s 18-pitch outing, and the Red Sox used him for BP on Sunday, with the bottom third of the order teeing off for a double and two singles that trimmed the lead to 4-2.
By then, Britton was up in the bullpen, and because Loaisiga had satisfied the three-batter minimum, Boone was free to pull him. But he kept him in for leadoff hitter Kike Hernandez, who drilled a center-cut fastball for a laser RBI double.
"Just felt like if Lo could locate a pitch there, I like the matchup," Boone said. "But it’s a fair question."
Translation: The computer said go with Loaisiga vs. Hernandez. And under those ideal cyber-conditions, it probably works. On Sunday, however, Loaisiga literally was giving the game away before Boone’s eyes.
Further complicating that eighth inning? When Britton finally did enter to face pinch hitter Kevin Plawecki, Boone kept the middle infielders back with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second. It didn’t take long for him to realize his mistake. Plawecki hit a sinker toward shortstop and all Gleyber Torres could do was throw to first for the out as the run scored and Hernandez took third. Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly then put the Red Sox ahead.
"I just didn’t want to get beat on something soft with no outs, so I had the middle back," Boone said. "In hindsight, that’s the one I kind of question myself about.
Should we have just sold out with no outs there? That’s certainly debatable."
In that situation, standard baseball operating procedure says stop the tying run at third by any means possible, which is why Boone sounded so conflicted afterward
The eighth inning featured a shattering series of events, including a sequence the usually unflappable Boone had trouble digesting shortly after the final out. He wasn’t the only one.
"It’s like you find yourself on top of the world and all of a sudden you’re free-falling," German said through an interpreter. "You fall fast. It’s so hard to even process what happened. How did it happen?"
For as much as Boone preaches a short memory, Monday’s off day before the Rays series gives this devastating loss a chance to linger. The next disaster will have a tough time beating this one.