Yankees running out of reasons to ‘have fun’ amid seven-game losing streak

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NEW YORK — The roll call emanating from the right-field bleachers could barely be heard.

Either Yankee fans lacked the energy, the heart, or both to serenade and support the starting nine as players took the field in the top of the first inning Saturday. Who can blame them? The lusterless New York Yankees sank to three games under .500 after their seventh-straight loss, again at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in an 8-1 defeat on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.

New York’s latest loss, their 12th of the month, arrived one day after Yankees manager Aaron Boone delivered a message to the team. The skipper said he spoke to the Yankees about acknowledging what they’re going through while stressing to the group to have fun playing the game.

“Don’t lose sight of the fact why you started playing this game,” Boone said of his message to the team. “And that’s because it was fun and you’re probably pretty good at it. And don’t lose sight of that, especially when it’s hard and different guys are feeling it in different ways. Come in with that edge and a little chip on your shoulder. Come in ready to prepare and work. But when it comes time to play, go out there and have fun playing the game.”

The Yankees responded by being no-hit into the seventh inning by Red Sox right-hander Kutter Crawford. Hard to have fun playing the game that way. While we’re at it, what are the reasons they should be having fun? Because looking at the standings certainly doesn’t elicit fun for these uninspired Yankees.

This three-game series in the Bronx presented the Yankees with an opportunity to make up ground in the American League Wild Card standings. Thanks to the Angels’ post-trade deadline plunge, only the Red Sox, the Blue Jays and the Mariners stand in New York’s way. But the Yankees can’t figure out how to stop the bleeding. The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight games against the Yankees this season.

The Yankees fell 7.5 games back of Seattle for the final wild-card spot. The Red Sox are now only 2.5 games out.

“We’re OK, we’re OK,” said Boone of the team’s morale. “Definitely wearing it and not fun going through this, right? But I feel like we’re OK and I do feel like a turnaround is coming.”  

Perhaps Yankees ace and AL Cy Young contender Gerrit Cole taking the mound was one reason the club could’ve had a fun day. But even that plan didn’t work when Cole had a rare disappointing outing. His six earned runs allowed against the Red Sox inflated his season ERA from 2.76 to 3.03. Cole is 10-4 on the season.

The signs that Cole was off-kilter in his 26th start of the season were there as early as the first inning Saturday. 

Cole’s body language looked off — he looked tired and uncomfortable — just a dozen pitches into his outing. And it’s not like he took the mound on an oppressively hot and humid August day to justify some of those uneasy gestures. Saturday was a beautiful, breezy, 73-degree afternoon in the Bronx. Cole just looked like he wasn’t enjoying any part of it, even after a scoreless first. When the inning was over, he walked back to the dugout looking toward the ground while shaking his head.

That ominous head shake was an early harbinger of the unfortunate second inning still to come.

In the second, Cole allowed a line drive leadoff single to Adam Duvall. When Jarren Duran singled to center in the next at-bat, Harrison Bader threw to third base as Duvall successfully advanced. Rather than backing up the play at third, Cole stayed put on the mound, with that same forlorn-looking body language. Never mind that Bader’s throw to third allowed Duran to advance to second base. That hardly mattered when, moments later, Luis Urias, Boston’s No. 9 hitter, smashed a grand slam to left field off Cole.

“It’s tough,” Cole said of the Yankees’ recent stretch. “I don’t recall experiencing anything like this before in my career.”

Luis Urias crushes a grand slam off Gerrit Cole

Luis Urias crushes a grand slam off Gerrit Cole

Due to the lack of run support, Cole had to be near perfect to give his team a chance to stay in the game. But, oftentimes this year, even when Cole delivered excellent outings, the Yankees wasted his starts. So Cole was in a tough spot as he navigated pitching on a day when he didn’t have his best stuff. He was walking a tightrope. Even one error, like the 91 mph cutter to Urias that didn’t break, could cost him and the Yankees the game. 

The Yankees quickly found themselves down 4-0 to the Red Sox in the second inning. With an anemic offense that is ranked 22nd in MLB in OPS, there was little reason to believe New York would mount a comeback. But if there was ever a day to pick their ace up, particularly since Cole has been spectacular for the Yankees this season, it was this day. Yet, even the minimal opportunities the Yankees created were promptly squandered.

The Yankees have batted .181 and scored just 15 runs in 63 innings throughout their seven-game losing streak.

“It’s been sloppy baseball all around,” said Isiah Kiner-Filefa, who bunted into a double play in the second inning.

The already overwhelming hill became insurmountable for the Yankees when Cole allowed his second home run of the day, this time a two-run shot to Red Sox catcher Connor Wong, in the fourth inning. Cole, frozen motionless, looked stunned as the ball sailed over Aaron Judge’s head and into the right-field seats. Boone had seen enough. Cole was yanked from his outing after just four innings and 86 pitches. It was his shortest start of the year and his most abbreviated outing since June 9, 2022, against the Twins.

To further epitomize the Yankees’ offensive embarrassment, Crawford carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Crawford was still cruising on 62 pitches to begin the frame, making the rare feat seem possible against a lifeless New York offense. Who else but Judge made sure the Yankees wouldn’t be on the wrong side of a no-hitter? Judge, the only Yankees hitter batting over .265, crushed his 24th home run of the season to the left field bullpen. The solo shot wasn’t enough to mount a comeback against the Red Sox. But at least the 42,599 in attendance finally had something for which to cheer.

“We’re not winning,” said Judge. “That’s what it comes down to.” 

Cole said it best. The Yankees will ultimately be judged by how they handle adversity and how they get through this tough stretch. The baseball gods are testing their mettle, and they’re not giving us any reasons to believe they’ll pass that test.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 

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