The Subway Series couldn’t have started much better for the Yankees.
Aaron Judge – the game’s second batter – delivered the kind of homer to right center he often hits in New York, just in a different borough. But in this 423-foot blast, there could be no claims of preference for short portals. It would have been a homer in any major’s park except against the high right field wall in Oracle. Free-Agency Alert: This is the home of the Giants, which Team Judge grew up for and is currently considered the biggest offseason threat for the Yankees to land the Slugger.
Anthony Rizzo also went deep into opposing field on the next field, and on back-to-back offers, Taijuan Walker had given up as many home runs as in his previous 12 starts and 80 ²/₃ innings.
It played like a flex. As if the Yankees came to Citi Field to say that there might be two first-place teams in New York, but one remains the true engine of the subway.
But the Yankees are in shaky shape these days. Your appetizers look like they did their best in May and June. Injuries have softened their depth. And the big hits don’t come the way they did when they were in the same set as the 1998 Yankees champions.
Aaron Boone said it was “difficult to keep up that pace” after the Mets not only erased the Yankee lead in the opening inning, but generated enough runs in the first six batters to eventually win 6-3.
It left the Yankees 10-11 in July. They still have an 11 ¹/₂ game lead in the AL East. But they’re suddenly playing like a team that could take advantage of the upgrades and energy boost that would result from one or two (or three) significant trade deadline deals.
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“We’ve lost a handful of games over the past few weeks that could go either way we won early,” Boone said. “We can play better. We played about as well as you can play. We’ve played a little less so far [the past few weeks]and we didn’t pull out some of the games that we had pulled out.
The rotation, in particular, is nowhere near the peak of preseason dominance, and Wednesday, in the finals of this two-game Subway series, perhaps the biggest discrepancy of the season looms, Domingo German vs. Max Scherzer.
That put pressure on Jordan Montgomery to perform well in the opener. Instead, he put on his shortest start (2 ¹/₃ innings) since September 2020 because he just couldn’t take down Mets hitters. Montgomery went 0-2 on eight occasions, and three of those at-bats ended with extra base hits, including a homer and a double from Starling Marte. In all, Montgomery went 0-2 or 1-2 10 times and had 16 fouls after that.
“I made decent pitches, but they must have had a really good game plan against me, and it’s a good lineup,” Montgomery said.
The left-hander’s failure gave the Yankees five 3 ²/₃ innings or fewer starts in July — or as many as they did from April through June. Is it possible that the quest for excellence took life in the early months of a Yankees rotation now operating without Luis Severino? Does this emphasize the Yankees need to land Reds ace Luis Castillo or Marlin’s stalwart Pablo Lopez before next Tuesday’s 6 p.m. deadline?
Montgomery had not given up more than three extra base hits in one start that year. He gave up four of the first six batsmen: a Marte homer, doubles by Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, and a two-run homer by Eduardo Escobar. Montgomery did not survive a third inning that included an undeserved run initiated by a throwing error by Josh Donaldson.
The Yankees’ bullpen of Ron Marinaccio (now up to 17 straight innings scoreless), Jonathan Loaisiga, Aroldis Chapman and Wandy Peralta didn’t allow another run through eight innings before Albert Abreu allowed one in the ninth.
But the Yankees’ offense failed to recover due to dubious baserunning and a lack of big hits (0-on-8 with runners in goal position). Isiah Kiner-Falefa was picked first with runners at the corners and an out in the second inning. Rizzo was kicked out as a trail runner on a double steal attempt with Aaron Judge with two ons and one out in seventh place. It came with Adam Ottavino pitching. Base Stealers were 10-10 against Ottavino this year; Ottavino played for Boone in his two Yankees seasons, allowing 19 of 20 steal triees.
But that’s how it was in July. The Yankees weren’t as crisp or healthy (Giancarlo Stanton went to the IL Tuesday with Achilles tendonitis) when compared to the greatest teams of all time.
At least on Tuesday, they weren’t even the best team in New York. Walker settled in a way Montgomery didn’t, and the first game of the 2022 Subway Series was more of the same for the Yankees in July. The trade deadline is a week away. Brian Cashman needs to see he suddenly has a team that needs a jolt.