The strangest part of this Yankees collapse is that it would actually be easier to understand if they were actually collapsing.
If the Yankees were doing what the Red Sox did last season, losing every night and showing the same interest in competing that pacifists show in taking up arms, you could at least understand that something was rotten at the core of the team. It is harder to figure how this team, which has been 25-29 in the second half and 4-6 in September, is simply slightly below average.
They win games often enough to make you think that the slump is temporary, but they haven't won two straight since the middle of August and the cycle isn't showing any signs of breaking. Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Red Sox looked like the entire dismal run condensed into a nine-inning game.
The Yankees were gifted numerous opportunities to win the game, took advantage of too few of them and then gave back every edge they gained over the course of the evening's non-entertainment. When it finally ended, on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, it almost felt like a relief because there's only so long you can take the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop before it kills you.
Sox starter Jon Lester wanted nothing more than to lose this game and get back to the business of destroying Bobby Valentine's career in Boston with a season of awful pitching, but the Yankees simply wouldn't let him. Lester walked a career-high seven batters on Tuesday night, although his plot to help the Yankees win failed because the Bronx "Bombers" managed to turn just one of those free passes into a run.
Yes, Virginia, the old runners in scoring position problem was in full effect on Tuesday night as the Yankees went 1-for-12 in those situations to hand many a prized opportunity back as if it were somehow unsporting to actually try to win games that are put in front of you on a platter. If this Yankee season winds up being eulogized in a couple of weeks, this issue will be one of the leading causes of death.
As will the inability to hold a lead once they got it. Hiroki Kuroda didn't pitch poorly, but he didn't pitch great either and gave back a pair of one-run leads over the course of the action.
The second one he gave up was on a home run by Dustin Pedroia, one of the only two player in the Red Sox lineup that could hurt you. The other was Ellsbury and the Yankees let both of them do the big damage on Tuesday night.
Ellsbury's winning hit was set up by a pair of dinky hits off of David Robertson, pitching a second inning after blowing the Sox away in the eighth and watching Eduardo Nunez get gunned down trying to steal second in the top of the inning with A-Rod and Robinson Cano coming up. Bad fortune to be sure, but luck is the residue of design and the Yankees haven't designed a masterpiece in quite a long time.
So it's another tie after the Orioles won against the Rays and the Yankees continue to stare into the abyss without walking away or jumping in. That middle ground won't be available too much longer and the Yankees' comfort in that neck of the woods might well become the epitaph for this season.