Sunday September 12, 2021
Celebrating a Big Bronx Defeat
In a world of many small defeats, it's important to celebrate the big defeats of perennial winners like the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have been a hugely streaky team this year. Predicted by many (including me) to win the AL pennant for the first time since 2009, they started out poorly, revived, dithered, then put together one of the longest win steaks in team history—a lucky 13 games from August 14 to August 27. I was in New York for some of that and I could see fans growing confident again, wearing the caps and shirts again. This was the real Yankees, damnit! But all streaks must come to an end and this one did with a 3-2 loss to Oakland on August 28. “A loss is a loss,” said Aaron Judge, who hit a 2-run homer in the 9th to no avail. “It's time to start another streak, that's all.” Which they did—but not in the way he meant. They lost four in a row. Then they won two. Then they lost seven in a row. The 13-0 team had quickly become a 2-11 team.
The num-num moment of this period was a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at New Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays have some of the best young hitters in the game (Vlad Jr., Bichette Jr., Gurriel Jr.) but the team has massively underperformed this year. They've had a huge 100+ run differential but have floundered back of the wild card pack, seemingly out of it. Last Sunday, the day before Labor Day, they were 4.5 games back of the Yankees, whose run differential was less than half theirs.
But the Blue Jays won the first game in resounding fashion, 8-0. They won the second, 5-1, off Yankees ace Gerritt Cole. They won the third 6-3 and were leading the fourth 2-0 in the 6th inning when Anthony Rizzo went deep for the pinstripes to tie it up. Aw, too bad, I thought. But the Jays scored another in the 7th, another in the 8th, and two more in the 9th to win it 6-4 and sweep the Bombers in the Bronx.
That's a rarity. But that's not the big defeat I referenced. The big defeat is this: the Yankees never held the lead in any of those games.
When was the last time the Yankees lost a four-game series, anywhere, without once holding the lead? Would you believe 1924?
As a result, the AL Wild Card has gotten interesting. Friday night's games tightened things further, with the top three teams (BoSox, Yankees, Blue Jays) losing and the bottom two (A's, my own, young, unheralded, no-name Seattle Mariners) winning, so all five were within two games of each other. Last night the reverse: top three won, bottom two lost. It's going to be a bumpy ride. Three weeks left.