So who showed less interest Wednesday afternoon in the Bronx?
The 33,038 fans that barely cared enough to boo the pathetic version of baseball that took place on the field in front of them? Or the Yankees themselves, a shell of a team, decimated by injury, that once again was virtually non-competitive, this time in a 2-1 defeat to the Tigers?
It’s a tough call. And a brutal indictment of Aaron Boone’s crew, which seems to be in danger of falling victim to the woe-is-us mentality that appeared to infect this team during a dreadful 2-4 homestand against the Tigers and Orioles.
Things got worse Wednesday on nearly every front as Troy Tulowitzki was forced to leave the game in the third inning because of a left calf strain. With Tulo’s fragile rep, you can’t say it was a total shocker, but getting hurt within the first week was a bit on the early side. As Boone indicated, Tulowitzki is a lock for the IL, and that brings the Yankees’ count to 11 after CC Sabathia was added earlier in the day.
There’s no way to ignore that degree of damage. The Yankees are smart enough to avoid publicly leaning on the injuries as a crutch, but that’s been a significant factor in their pitiful performance so far. How could it not be?
“It’s not ideal,” Brett Gardner said. “Our depth obviously is going to be tested. But I’m confident that we’ve got the guys to step up and get the job done.”
Gardner has to say that, and as the longest-tenured Yankee, he didn’t hesitate to step up to deliver that message, even if he had only a pinch-running cameo in Wednesday’s game. But we’re not sold on this roster, as currently composed, having the “guys” to do what Gardner apparently things they can do.
The Yankees struck out 18 times Wednesday in 35 plate appearances, that’s one K for every 1.94 trips. Tigers starter Matthew Boyd fanned a career-high 13, and afterward, Boone tried to pin part of the blame on the late-afternoon sun. That’s living in denial at this point, and Aaron Judge didn’t duck beneath the cover his manager attempted to provide.
“It’s baseball,” Judge said. “We’ve been playing with shadows our whole life. It’s not really that big of a deal.”
True. The Yankees’ issues go way beyond unfavorable sunlight. Plus, after two night games with temperatures in the low 40s, it was 64 for Wednesday’s first pitch, definitely hitter-friendly weather. But it doesn’t really matter where the Yankees play right now, or how warm it is. Everything they do just turns out wrong, a demoralizing cocktail of poor decisions, lousy performance and terrible luck on the medical side.
On Wednesday, Gary Sanchez committed his fourth error, letting his throw to second sail into Nicholas Castellanos on a stolen base in the fourth inning. Castellanos took third on the play, and later scored the Tigers’ first run. Boone continues to act like Sanchez’s throwing isn’t a problem, but his error helped create the slim margin the Yankees couldn’t overcome.
The Yankees also had a rally fizzle in the third inning when Judge, going from second to third, got hit on the foot by Gleyber Torres’ sharp grounder for the third out. Judge described that bad hop as the difference in the game, and while he’s not wrong, you would think the Yankees could have scraped up another run or two over the next six innings.
Instead, they just keep rolling over, and managed only one other hit -- Clint Frazier’s two-out single in the sixth inning. Two other Yankees reached base on walks, and one of their best opportunities to score backfired in the eighth inning. After Luke Voit drew a leadoff walk, Boone waited for both Sanchez and Torres to whiff before inserting Gardner as a pinch runner.
Based on what we’ve seen from the Yankees lately, the chances of Gardner getting 180 feet before a third out was ridiculously small. And the suspense didn’t last very long. With Greg Bird at the plate, Gardner tried to steal second and was promptly thrown out to kill the threat.
Boone explained later that he initially was saving Gardner to pinch hit, and with the Yankees’ bench in shambles, it’s not perfect when you’ve only really got one player to do both. But that’s their reality these days, and the Yankees need to find a way.
“I’ll hang my hat on our group,” Boone said. “I know we’ll fight through this and get it rolling.”
The evidence, so far, suggests otherwise.