Yankees fail to take accountability after embarrassing meltdown against Red Sox


NEW YORK — The New York Yankees were booed off the field in the ninth inning of Friday night’s game after closer Clay Holmes allowed a tying two-run home run to Masataka Yoshida on a full count with two outs. But there were plenty of opportunities for the sellout crowd to boo before the ninth-inning meltdown.

The Yankees’ most embarrassing performance of the season started in the third inning with a Little League blunder. With runners on first and third and one out, rookie leadoff hitter Ben Rice hit a chopper to Red Sox first baseman Romy Gonzalez. Gonzalez stepped on the bag and fired the ball to second to tag DJ LeMahieu out for a 3-3-6 double play, ending the inning. There were two major blunders on the play. The first: Anthony Volpe, the runner on third, could have scored once Gonzalez stepped on first base. The Red Sox had to tag LeMahieu out because the force play went away. But Volpe failed to continue running. He walked the final few feet home as he watched LeMahieu get tagged out.

Volpe told reporters that he thought it was a foul ball, even though the first-base umpire immediately signaled it was fair, the Red Sox threw the ball to second base for a double play possibility, and despite the play happening in front of the Yankees’ shortstop’s line of sight. Volpe blamed his inability to score on not knowing what transpired.

“I think there was confusion on fair or foul,” he said.

Even with Volpe’s base-running miscue, he still could have scored if LeMahieu hadn’t given himself up immediately between first and second base. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the “ideal thing” would have been for LeMahieu to get in a rundown, allowing the chance for Volpe to score. Instead, LeMahieu was tagged out with no effort of forcing a rundown. LeMahieu was unavailable for comment because he was getting treatment, a team spokesperson said. Boone said he spoke with Volpe about the need to finish the play but did not mention if he had a conversation with LeMahieu about being better on the bases.

Before the base-running snafu, LeMahieu barely reached first base on a groundball he hit up the middle. Both Red Sox middle infielders had trouble fielding and exchanging the potential double-play ball LeMahieu hit. He failed to hustle out of the batter’s box and barely beat the throw to first base. Boone said he did not see LeMahieu’s lack of hustle when asked if he was frustrated with the veteran’s lack of speed down the first base line. Replay showed LeMahieu kicked it into high gear only a few steps from first base.

“How frustrating is what? He was hustling,” Boone said.

Just over a week ago, Boone benched Gleyber Torres after he failed to hustle on a weakly hit groundball against the New York Mets. He called Torres’ benching a “reset” with his struggles at the plate and said his lack of hustle was “one of the things that got my attention, certainly.” Yet Friday, Boone defended LeMahieu’s effort.

The blunders did not stop there for the Yankees. In the eighth inning with a runner on first base, Ceddanne Rafaela hit a ball that landed directly in front of home plate. Yankees catcher Austin Wells failed to make a good throw down to second for the force out. While the throw was low, the ball ricocheted off Oswaldo Cabrera’s glove. Two batters later, reliever Luke Weaver threw a pickoff attempt into center field. Weaver ultimately got out of the jam, but it was another display of sloppy baseball.

The wheels fell off for the Yankees beginning in the ninth when Holmes threw seven straight sinkers to Yoshida before the eighth consecutive one found the right-field seats. Holmes said he didn’t consider throwing a slider, his best swing-and-miss pitch, to Yoshida because the sinker registers a low slugging percentage for opposing hitters. The sinker is a pitch designed to get soft contact, but these are the risks Holmes runs when he doesn’t opt for a whiff pitch.

“I thought Clay’s stuff was really good,” Boone said. “They made him work even when he was retiring hitters and spoiling (pitches). Then finally that middle-down right in Yoshida’s hot spot there and he didn’t miss it. Credit to him for not missing it. I think the amount of foul balls and not being able to finish a guy hurt us tonight.”

With the game in extra innings, the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle out of the bullpen. Kahnle immediately allowed a two-run home run to Rafaela, giving Boston a 5-3 lead. Kahnle, a changeup pitcher, opted for consecutive fastballs against Rafaela, who was not fooled.

The Yankees still had an opportunity to win in the bottom of the 10th. They had two runners on with no outs. Aaron Judge fouled out. Alex Verdugo hit an infield pop-up. And Cabrera hit a groundball to first base to end the game with the score still 5-3.

The Yankees have now lost 15 of their last 20 games. Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes said he doesn’t think anyone is panicking inside the clubhouse. Volpe chalked the team’s extended struggles up to the ebbs and flows of the baseball calendar. Boone said he believes this three-week stretch of bad play comes down to not capitalizing in certain moments of each game.

Friday night’s poorly played game was the second day in a row of the team looking flat and lackadaisical. Center fielder Trent Grisham failed to cleanly field a base hit in the ninth inning of Thursday’s loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Boone said it’s a play Grisham needs to make, but he had no problem with the appearance of the Gold Glove outfielder not taking the play seriously because he plays with a “slow heartbeat.”

With the lack of urgency and sloppiness fully on display throughout Friday’s loss, Boone was asked if he was concerned about his team’s lack of basic fundamentals.

“We got to play better than that. No question,” he said. “We certainly understand that and invest a lot in that. We have to play clean baseball, especially when it’s hard and things are hard to come by. We got to be better, period.”

Two years ago when the Yankees faced elimination in the American League Championship Series, Boone showed his team highlights of the Boston Red Sox completing their comeback from down three games to none to win the 2004 ALCS to give hope to his 2022 squad that it, too, could still beat the Houston Astros in seven games.

There will not be a replay shown of this game to motivate the 2024 Yankees in what was their worst loss of the season to date.

“We got to dig down and (have) a quick turnaround (Saturday) to get ready to play and find out what we’re made of a little bit,” Boone said. “You’re going to be tested all of the time with tough spots in the season, which clearly we are right now. Extremely tough losses when you’re going through it. This falls in that category. We’ve got to turn the page quick and come out to finish off a ballgame.”

(Photo of Ceddanne Rafaela going for the tag on DJ LeMahieu at second base in the third inning: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)





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