Yankees Blow Opportunity Before Crucial Stretch

Sabathia stumbles, the defense bumbles and the offense can't pick them up

Summer isn't quite over yet, but the past week was supposed to be about the Yankees storing up food and provisions for the coming winter.

After a day off on Thursday, they embark on 10 straight games against the Orioles and Rays, the two teams nipping at their heels in the AL East. That meant six games against the Indians and Blue Jays were about getting some breathing room that would allow them to enter this 10-game stretch with a cushion.

There will be no cushion thanks to breakdowns in all phases against the Jays in an 8-5 loss on Wednesday afternoon. The loss was the second in three games to Toronto and led to a 3-3 record in the six games against patsies, which means they have just 3.5 games on Baltimore and four games on Tampa heading into the stretch.

It could be a loss that really winds up burning a hole of regret into the team. It came in a game that started with CC Sabathia on the hill, the Yankees jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and the Blue Jays handing the team dozens of opportunities to pile on runs that simply never came.

Sabathia was not as bad as his five runs in seven innings might appear, but he also wasn't the ace that he was when the team needed him to throw a gem last Friday night in Cleveland. He couldn't put the Jays away when they scored three times with two outs in the third inning and stumbled again in the sixth, two blemishes that were enough to cost the Yankees the game.

Not that Sabathia got any help from his friends, including the team's increasingly terrifying relievers not named David Robertson or Rafael Soriano. If the defense had been sound and the offense came up with a few more hits, Sabathia's night would have been much easier to choke down.

Jayson Nix made an error to help the Jays score in the third, Andruw Jones failed to hold onto a ball that became a hit in the sixth, Jones botched another in the ninth and Eric Chavez booted a ball that inning to help the Jays add a little insurance. Extra chances will come back to haunt you, as will failing to capitalize on the ones that come your way.

That leads us to the offense, which went 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a brutal reminder of how ugly things were in that realm earlier this season. The most damning moment of the game came when Derek Jeter was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out and neither Nick Swisher nor Robinson Cano could even put a ball in play.

The Yankee lineup is hurting right now, as evidenced by Andruw Jones hitting cleanup one day after Steve Pearce, but those are two of the guys that need to raise their games as a result of the other absences. Based on Wednesday, they aren't the only ones although Swisher and Cano at the top of the list given their significance to the team's offense when everyone is healthy.

Stumbles like this happen in every season and wind up being forgotten, but the timing of this one (and Monday night's blown lead) could wind up looming large in the story of this season. The Yankees have left themselves without much of a net so it would behoove them to remain on the tightrope.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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