BOSTON — You can talk about manager Joe Girardi’s really bad two nights. You could go move by move, reliving every decision that went horribly wrong over a 24-hour period at Fenway Park that might be the death knell for the New York Yankees’ 2016 playoff chances. But here is — to borrow one of the manager’s favorite’s pet phrases — the bottom line: The 2016 Yankees are not in the same weight class as the Boston Red Sox.
Perhaps the great Yankees selloff will change that one day, but that day is not today, and that is why there probably won’t be a tomorrow come Oct. 2, the final day of the regular season, for the Yankees. The division race is all but mathematically over for the Yankees; there is still a chance at the wild card, though it is very slim. Just look at the standings.
Boston’s lineup is stacked 1-through-9, making four trips through their lineup a scary task, while the Yankees had a lineup that features Gary Sanchez batting .320 and no other regular above .274. Girardi almost sounded envious when asked about Boston’s bruising batting order.
“It is very, very good,” Girardi said. “They have scored more runs than anyone in baseball. There is a lot of different combinations. They have power. They have speed. They have contact hitters. They run the bases extremely well. They hit the ball out of the ballpark. It is a very dangerous lineup. When you have three guys in your lineup with 100 RBIs, it is a dangerous lineup.”
Boston has scored exactly 200 more runs than the Yankees this season, 819-619. You don’t need to be a sabermetrician to figure out that makes it much easier to win. The Red Sox had seven players in their lineup Friday who entered the game batting at least .284. The only two hitters below that were No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. at .272 and Travis Shaw at .253. Incidentally, Bradley’s 24 homers and 84 RBIs are better than anyone in the Yankees’ lineup. Shaw’s 70 RBIs are better than anyone on the Yankees’ card. The Red Sox’s David Ortiz, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez all have 100-plus RBIs.
After Friday’s 7-4 defeat, the Yankees are now six games behind Boston in the American League East. They have lost nine of 14 games to the Red Sox. That means when they play other teams, the Red Sox are just two games better. The rivals have two more here this weekend and then three during the season’s final week in the Bronx, which should pretty much sap any optimism any Yankees fan might have left.
On Friday, Girardi’s touch was off again. The manager has had a fine run, but every move has backfired the past two nights.
In the worst loss of the season on Thursday, Girardi failed to go to his security blanket, Dellin Betances, to begin the ninth inning despite a three-run lead. Girardi has been managing desperately and successfully in the second half, operating with urgency. On Thursday, he wanted to avoid Betances for a third consecutive day, but then saddled his closer with a man on and one out. It blew up in Girardi’s face, and that game might end up taking the Yankees’ season with it.
On Friday, Girardi lifted starter Luis Cessa after a quick fifth inning, which brought his pitch count to a mere 64. With Ortiz up, Girardi trusted his binder to go lefty on lefty. Ortiz smacked a double to lead off the two-run inning. Girardi would use a total of four pitchers in the frame, and two more for the seventh and eighth. Boston added two more runs in the seventh.
Girardi looked worn down during the postgame interview inside his cramped Fenway office. He gave his reasoning for straying from Cessa to begin the sixth.
“We just thought we would start mixing and matching at that point, and we thought his fastball was starting to leak a little bit,” Girardi said.
Cessa said he was “surprised,” but it is hard to totally get on Girardi considering the Red Sox hit a lot of balls hard vs. Cessa. The rookie was lucky to give up only three runs, as he could’ve been gone in the first if the Red Sox hadn’t run themselves into two outs.