The time comes in every season when process becomes secondary to results. That time has come for the Yankees.
Which is why it is darn near impossible to draw optimism from Sunday’s 9-7 defeat to the Astros at the Stadium that cemented a 3-4 homestand in which the Yankees lost a full game in the wild-card race no matter how the club tried to spin it.
They wound up splitting this four-game set with Houston while losing the opportunity to win their first series against an above-.500 team for the first time since taking two of three from Texas from June 23-25. Indeed, the Yankees have won only one of their past 10 series overall, losing six and splitting three.
One step forward. One step back.
That’s the Pinstripe Polka.
Hip-hip-hooray, they had good at-bats in this mess of a game in which the Houston staff threw a sum of 215 pitches — just 117 adjudged strikes by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez — while forcing two runs across the plate with bases-loaded walks plus another with a bases-loaded hit batsman.
But their failure to come up with the big hit on a day that starting pitcher Carlos Rodon and relief pitcher Wandy Peralta each was stung by two home runs ultimately sank the Yankees, who dropped 4 ½ games behind Toronto in the wild-card race. In other words, 4 ½ games out of sixth place in the AL.
They scrapped, they battled, but on an afternoon on which Aaron Judge went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to conclude the homestand 2-for-21 without a homer or RBI, and Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-6 while making the final out on a drive to the warning track as the potential winning run, the Yankees left 15 men on base while going 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
What, Harrison Bader worry?
“Actually I feel the complete opposite,” the center fielder said when asked if the team had lost an opportunity. “For the first time in a really long time, it was a really good game and a really good battle, and there wasn’t a single time, regardless of what was happening on the other side, where we felt we were out of it.
“We did a great job battling back, so I think it was actually a big momentum boost for us moving forward.”
The Yankees did come back from a 5-1 deficit after three innings to tie it with four in the fourth inning, three runs coming in on bases-on-balls and the hit batsman. The Astros, though, hung another four runs on the board in the sixth for a 9-5 lead. And yes, the Yankees did chip, chip, chip away, but just couldn’t take advantage of the constant traffic on the bases.
In May or June, maybe the team would be able to legitimately take solace from this one. But now, with 50 games to go? Now, after having gone 4-6 after Judge’s return to active duty? That’s a bit much to believe.
The homestand was a rather calamitous one. The Yankees lost Domingo German for the season after he was placed on the MLB restricted list following an alcohol-fueled episode in the clubhouse that happened almost immediately after the trade deadline in which general manager Brian Cashman failed to add significant reinforcements.
They had Luis Severino implode (again). They had Rodon pitch dreadfully (again) before leaving with a hamstring issue with two out in the third after allowing five runs on three hits. He left to jeers from the crowd — insult upon injury — with a 7.33 ERA for the season in which he has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings.
“This is not the way I wanted to come out and perform, especially in this game where I felt we needed to win,” Rodon said. “It wasn’t good.
“I’m pretty frustrated with the way I’m performing now, that’s for sure.”
Rodon will undergo an MRI exam Monday. The hierarchy is already debating whether Severino will make his scheduled next start Wednesday against the White Sox. Now there is uncertainty about whether Rodon will be able to make his next start, though that may be a good news-bad news thing. There are only so many bullpen games manager Aaron Boone can ask of his staff.
The Yankees came into this one having won three of their previous four. They had not gone through a mini-stretch winning four of five since June 29. They still haven’t. This was a game in which the Yankees had a chance to create some traction.
Instead, they drew a lot of walks, constantly had men on base and in scoring position, and lost. Maybe that would have been good enough in May. Maybe that would have been good enough in June.
It is not good enough in August.
Not even close.