After another lackluster performance by the New York Yankees in their 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, manager Aaron Boone took his team to task.
“We should be ticked off right now and we need to start playing better. Plain and simple,” Boone said after the Yankees’ fifth shutout loss in August, most in the majors. New York came into the month having been shut out just a total of six times.
“You pour a lot into trying to shake hands at the end of the day, and we’ve been able to do that on balance on a really high clip this year. We’ve hit a rough patch and we’ve got to dig ourselves out,” Boone said. “We can sit here, and I can keep answering questions and talk about it … but we’ve got to go do it. And the good news is we’ve got all the pieces in that room to do that. I know that’s coming. I know it’s going to happen, but it really sucks going through it.”
After their loss to Toronto in the second matchup of a four-game set, the Yankees have a 5-12 record in August, being held to two or fewer runs in eight of those games. Only two teams, the Nationals (5-12) and Tigers (4-13), have fared as poorly this month.
The Yankees were widely considered the best team in baseball after an inordinate 44-16 (.733) record in their first 60 games of the year. They have gone 29-31 over their past 60 games, becoming the first team in MLB history with a .700 win percentage across their first 60 decisions to then go under .500 in their next 60 decisions, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
And it is precisely that track record Boone cited when talking about his confidence in his team.
“We’ve done it most of the year. I have total faith in that room and those players,” Boone said. “We’ve got more than our share of struggling right now. But we’ve got to find a way. I don’t really care about the number [of games in the divisional lead]. If we play like this and keep walking away at the end of the night, it ain’t going to matter. If we get it together and play our game, then we’ll run away. So eight, nine, 10, seven, five, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to start racking up some wins. And hopefully that starts tomorrow afternoon.”
Boone specifically referred to the Yankees dwindling divisional lead. On July 8, the Yankees held their largest advantage atop the AL East at 15.5 games. Friday’s loss to Toronto saw that divisional lead go down to eight. The last time the Yankees’ divisional lead was that low was after the end of play on June 10, when they were up by 7.5 games.
Infielder DJ LeMahieu, who was in the starting lineup in both losses to the Jays after missing four games due to right toe inflammation, admitted the team has been pressing as of late, which has contributed to their present skid.
“Don’t have an easy answer, but the last thing we can do is try to do more than we’re capable,” LeMahieu said. “If everyone just does their job, what they’re capable of, as a unit, we’re going to have a lot of benefits from that. But it’s hard to do. Everyone wants to be the guy. But like we’ve all been talking about, as a group and individually, just staying within ourselves and having good at-bats.”
The Yankees will try to have much better at-bats to avoid their third consecutive series loss at home and third consecutive series loss to an AL East rival after going 1-2 vs. Boston and Tampa Bay.
The Yankees have had an exceptional record against the AL East this season. Their series loss in Boston last Sunday was their first one to an AL East team since April 15-17 at Baltimore, snapping a 12-series streak. After that series loss to the Sox, the Yankees went 1-2 against the Rays before facing the Jays.
The last time the Yankees lost three straight home series was their first three home series in 2019.
“I don’t give a crap about the [divisional] lead,” Boone said. “Play better. We’ll handle it. You can talk about that — eight, nine, seven, 10 — we need to play better. If we play like this, it’s not going to matter anyway. We handle our business, we’re in a great spot. We understand that. But we need to handle our business.”