Right at 6 o’clock Sunday night, did you, as a Yankees fan, feel a sense of déjè vu?
Or maybe you’d blocked it out, as the previous series of events didn’t exactly lead to a happy ending.
But when the Orioles did the Yankees’ dirty work, disposing of the Blue Jays, 7-5, up in Buffalo as the Yankees flailed at home against the Marlins in what concluded about 15 minutes later as a 5-0 loss — giving the Yankees the fifth seed in the American League and a wild-card matchup with the Indians — it brought to mind the last day of the 2015 regular season, when the O’s completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees in Baltimore, only for the Diamondbacks to dispose of the Astros to give the Yankees hosting rights in the American League wild-card game.
That proved a most pyrrhic victory, as the Yankees’ season ended two nights later with a limp, 3-0 loss to Dallas Keuchel and the ’Stros. Those Yankees lost six of their last seven regular-season games. These Yankees lost six of their last eight.
Do these Yankees have a revival in them, or are they just as cooked as their 2015 ancestors?
“Obviously we’ve had a week where we haven’t played our best baseball, where we’re struggling a little bit,” Aaron Boone said. “But I know what we’re capable of. Our guys know what we’re capable of. … Opportunity knocks right now. We can write the story. We don’t need anyone’s help.”
The siren immediately went off at the local Irony Police precinct, as the Yankees … needed the Orioles’ help to avoid getting saddled with the eighth and final seed, which would’ve matched them up immediately against the dreaded Rays and secured “road” status (which means merely serving as the visiting team most of the time in this COVID campaign) for the entirety of the playoffs. Not that the Indians, winners of seven of their last eight and ready to throw likely AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber against Gerrit Cole in Game 1 Tuesday, figure to be a pushover for the highly erratic Yankees, whose 2-6 funk capped a season that can be broken into four mini-dramas: 16-6, 5-15, 10-0 and now this.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster,” DJ LeMahieu said.
“Obviously we’ve played some baseball here recently that we’d like to forget,” Brett Gardner said.
Actually, I’d contend that the Yankees’ pitching is in pretty good shape as they close down Yankee Stadium for the winter. The only key arm who heads to the playoffs with concerns is reliever Adam Ottavino. Their hitting and defense, however, look more discombobulated than President Trump’s tax returns.
Sunday turned into just a brutal day for the Yankees’ lineup, as they went an astounding 0-for-15 (with two walks) when they had runners on base. A few nice defensive plays by the Marlins can’t cover up the overall futility the Yankees displayed both on Sunday and in this season-ending stretch. As the YES Network’s Seth Rothman detailed, the Yankees grounded into 15 double plays from Sept. 20 through the end of the season, the most in baseball.
“I always believe in our offense,” Boone said, “especially if we get a few guys rolling.” And while the defense performed smoothly on Sunday, you know where the red flags lie: Gary Sanchez behind the plate and Gleyber Torres at shortstop, both of whom experienced turbulence just this last week.
An optimist can point to another similar entry in Yankees history: The 2000 Yankees, who wrapped up the regular season on a 3-15 swan dive. I’d contend that those guys were absolute freaks, October superheroes, who reached back into their muscle memory to pull a third straight championship out of their magic hats. I’d also contend that these Yankees are better than the 2015 group, which reached the tournament on the backs of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, both of whom had nothing left at the end.
Nevertheless, this is a dicey way to end the season.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Boone vowed. “We’ve just got to go out and do it.”
Did Joe Girardi say something similar five years ago? Let’s Google it and reconvene the middle of this coming week to discuss.