Think of the Yankees’ current tumble as the Tiffany version of a dumpster fire. Wherein, if this thing can’t be extinguished, the perfectly groomed store manager will try on a pair of gold-encrusted goat’s horns.
The Yankees suffered their second straight one-run loss to the checked-out Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium, to drop to 8-11 in their last 19 games and set up a dreaded possibility for their next game: Thanks to the Red Sox’s 4-3 defeat of the Mets at Fenway Park, a Boston victory over the Yankees on Tuesday night in The Bronx would give the Sawx their third straight American League East title.
That the Yankees are too busy looking below them, with the A’s helping Sunday via a 5-4 loss to the Rays that kept the AL wild-card home-field advantage gap at 1 ¹/₂ games, to worry about such an indignity reflects their current malaise. The onus to find a cure for that team-wide illness undoubtedly falls on Aaron Boone.
If the rookie skipper stands in no danger of losing his job, as all appearances indicate, a September swoon and wild-card game loss would leave quite the mark.
“First of all, it’s never too late. We’re not even close to too late,” Boone insisted after the game. “We’ve got to play better, clearly. We’re not playing our best right now. But the history of this game is littered with stories of teams that went into the playoffs in different scenarios: Limping, playing great.
“The bottom line is, you’ve got to be playing right when it counts, and don’t mistake that for ‘This is OK,’ but I still believe at my core that we have everyone in that room to do something special. Because we’re getting pushed around a little bit right now. Because it’s difficult and we’re not playing our best. This thing ain’t even close to done.”
For the even-mannered Boone, this ranked as the equivalent of Jim Mora’s “Playoffs?!” press-conference moment, and that lack of outward emotion has drawn scorn from many passionate Yankees fans. Of course, Joe Girardi’s legendary post-loss grimace helped give Boone this opportunity in the first place.
It’s not like Boone has been making horrendous tactical errors during this stretch; you understood his thinking in lifting rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar for the defensively superior Adeiny Hechavarria in the eighth inning, even as it came back to bite them when the Yankees fell behind and Andujar’s turn in the lineup had to be filled by the less dangerous Neil Walker, who flied out to start the ninth. Yet Boone, more than any player, will have to own this if it doesn’t turn around after such a promising start to this high-expectations season.
In Sunday’s disappointment, they scored two runs within their five batters against Blue Jays rookie starter Thomas Pannone, and then they essentially shut it down. Forget about their bête noire of hitting with runners in scoring position; only two Yankees reached scoring position after the first. And when Dellin Betances mixed in one hard hit (Justin Smoak’s ground single) with a trio of bloops and bleeders, the Jays had their lead that old Yankees self-punching bag Ken Giles — apparently a new man after his trade from the Astros — closed out for a second straight day.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told The Post’s Dan Martin. “We’re not playing good baseball right now.” Cashman voiced satisfaction with Boone’s job performance in the brief interview.
Aaron Judge (right wrist) could return to full action during the Red Sox series, Boone said Sunday, and Aroldis Chapman (left knee) will throw a simulated game imminently. Perhaps that high-caliber duo can boost the team’s quality of play.
If they can’t put out the dumpster fire, though — for fatalists, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six — it’ll be one heck of an unfortunate way for the new manager to check out for the winter.