No loss is a good loss for the Yankees, especially one that drops them out of the playoff picture for the first time since Aug. 16.
A loss, however, can serve as a launching point. As inspiration. And if you’re a Yankee or one of their fans, that’s what you must hope will be the takeaway from your club’s thrilling, 7-6 defeat to the Mets on Sunday night at Citi Field.
The Yankees displayed a lot of fight here, in multiple ways. Can they carry that forward?
For when Giancarlo Stanton temporarily tied the game with a two-run blast in the seventh inning off Brad Hand, a 112.7 mph, 443-foot laser to center field, he didn’t make it around the bases without a pit stop, some taunting of Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor that sparked both benches to clear. The Mets felt, as ESPN’s Marly Rivera first reported, that the Yankees had been trying to convey stolen signs via a variety of whistles from their dugout, and Lindor pantomimed whistling at the Yankees after slamming his second homer of the night in the bottom of the sixth. So Stanton retorted with a blast and some trash talk.
Stanton exchanged angry words with Lindor and his double-play partner Javier Baez. Brett Gardner, feisty until the end, gave the thumbs-down signal to the Mets, a hilarious reference to Mets’ recent decision to turn on their fans. Mets skipper Luis Rojas and Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin jawed at each other. It was tight, tense.
Then Lindor, to his credit, slammed his third homer of the night in the bottom of the eighth off a Chad Green fastball, enjoying his true Met moment and giving his club a lead that it finally wouldn’t cough up. The Yankees (79-64) fought once more in the ninth, putting runners on first and second with one out, although they couldn’t deliver, Mets closer Edwin Diaz striking out Gardner and then following a James McCann passed ball, retiring Stanton on a humpback liner to Lindor in shallow left field.
“Games like this can put a little spark in you when you can rattle off some wins,” said rookie Clarke Schmidt, who allowed five runs, only two of them earned, in his first big league start of the season.
“I like how we’re competing right now,” Aaron Boone said.
Boone did not appear a happy man, as his guys fell a game behind the Blue Jays (80-63), who destroyed the Orioles, 22-7, while staying a game behind the Red Sox (81-64), who fell to the White Sox. The Yankees have some serious work to do with 19 games left on their schedule.
That schedule features some oases, specifically their next 10 games: One against the Twins and three each versus the Orioles, Indians and Rangers, with the only road series in Baltimore. Then it closes murderously: Three at the Red Sox, three at the Blue Jays and three at home against the Rays. Wow. Talk about a final exam.
Which means that the Yankees, having lost 11 of their last 14 tilts, had best prey on the weak. They failed to do that over Labor Day weekend when the Orioles came to The Bronx and took two of three. Yet if this weekend produced another series loss, the Yankees at least defied their reputation (crafted by many of their own spoiled supporters) that they’re a bunch of robots. They climbed out of a 7-5 hole on Saturday, Aaron Judge slamming a pair of homers and Aroldis Chapman (just barely) protecting a lead, and in this game, they came back from being down, 5-2, despite Judge leaving the game in the third inning due to dizziness.
They came a long way from Friday’s series opener, which featured the Yankees follies, two errors and one all time … something by Gary Sanchez (not an error, though) resulting in their seventh straight loss and prompting a postgame team meeting. No meetings were required after this one.
Of course, if they can’t build off this, there won’t be a need for many more meetings. Therein lies the challenge for these Yankees, who can’t afford many losses, no matter the silver linings, the rest of the way.