The 2021 Yankees have suffered some of the worst losses of this MLB season for any team. But bad losses are normal in any given 162 game season. There are going to be those games where your win probability climbs above 90% and it’s still lost. What’s not normal, though, is how many times the Yankees have been on the wrong end of that this season.
Mount Rushmore, the one we are aware of in South Dakota, is made up of four faces. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. And it is often used as a tool for asking someone what one’s Mount Rushmore of any given thing are. Whether that be movies, food, TV shows, athletes or cities.
We can use this tool, then, to decode the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore of losses. But here’s the catch, there have been too many bad losses this season to only pick four. In fact, a more reasonable number to pick from the litter is nine. Is nine terrible losses reasonable? Not really. But there have been at least nine that are worth mentioning. So what we basically have is two Mount Rushmore’s of Yankees losses, and I am going to do a brief autopsy of each.
Something worth noting, though, is that the Yankees are 12-11 in one-run games. Which, while just .500, is as expected for one run game outcomes. The Mariners, for reference, are 23-8 in one-run games.
May 28th At Detroit
Enter the first of many bad Yankees losses.
The Yankees had just come off winning seven of nine games going into a road series at Comerica Park. It was Gerrit Cole v. Casey Mize, a game the Yankees should be winning a majority of the time. Cole went six full innings, allowing just one run while Wandy Peralta, Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman each pitched scoreless innings. Casey Mize went five innings also allowing just one run, and passed it off to his bullpen.
In the top of the 9th inning, the Yankees were set up with 1st and 3rd one out. Gregory Soto then struck out the next two batters to head to the bottom of the ninth, where Aroldis Chapman threw a clean inning. In the top of the 10th, Aaron Judge scored on a wild pitch to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead, with Justin Wilson entering in the bottom of the tenth to try get the save.
Wilson got the first two outs of the tenth, which brought Robbie Grossman to the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Wilson gave Grossman a 93MPH fastball down the middle, and he sent it over the wall for a game winning home run.
Now, this loss was actually the least heartbreaking of all the ones to come, but the context made it bad. The Tigers were playing horrible baseball in April, the Yankees had just started getting hot, and the Tigers went on to sweep the series.
June 6th Vs. Boston
The Yankees had just bounced back from getting swept in Detroit by taking two of three games from Tampa. In came the Red Sox for the weekend, and the Yankees lost the first two games as they tried to avoid a sweep on this day, June 6th.
Domingo German got the start for the Yankees, going up against Garret Richards. The nightmare for this game starts in the 7th inning. Lucas Luetge was facing Marwin Gonzales in the top of the 7th inning up 3-1, with the avoidance of a series sweep in sight.
But on an 0-1 pitch, Marwin Gonalez took Luetge deep t0 left field to tie the game at 3. In the top of the 8th, still tied at 3, the Red Sox took the lead on a sacrifice fly. But then, in the Bottom of the 9th, Gleyber Torres sent a double down the left field line with Judge on first.
Judge would come in to score to tie the game. The Yankees would eventually have runners on the corners with two outs and Rougned Odor at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Rougned Odor got called out on strikes on what might have been the worst called strike call in MLB this season. Just listen to Matt Vasgersian’s reaction here.
The Red Sox would score two in the top of the tenth, the Yankees would score one in the bottom. The Sox swept the Yankees yet again.
June 10th At Minnesota
The Yankees, on the heels of getting swept by Boston, would win the first two games against the Minnesota Twins in the next series. But going for the sweep, the Yankees suffered another terrible loss. The Yankees had controlled the entire game, winning by a score of 5-2 at one point. They would take a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth with Aroldis Chapman entering the game.
In practically a blink of an eye, Aroldis Chapman gave up two two-run home runs without recording an out. One to Josh Donaldson and the other to Nelson Cruz. The Yankees would lose 7-5 and fall a game short of a sweep.
June 22nd Vs. Kansas City
The Yankees would manage themselves to a 5-3 record over the next eight games after Minnesota before meeting Kansas City in the Bronx on June 22nd.
Gerrit Cole started this game for the Yankees, going seven innings and allowing just two earned runs. The Yankees would take a 3-2 lead into the top of the 8th, where the Royals would score four runs to give themselves a 6-3 lead. D.J LeMahieu would hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the 8th to cut it to one. But the Yankees would not be able to get another, as they lost the game 6-5. This one was more of a ‘normal’ loss. But any time you have Loaisiga in the game with a lead, as they did in the 8th, you expect to win.
June 30th Vs. Angels
I don’t even think this one needs and introduction or a back story. The Yankees put up seven runs in the first inning off of Shohei Ohtani to take the lead 7-2. But the worst part of this game were the two rain delays. The second of which came after the top of the 5th inning, where the Yankees were leading 7-4 in an official game.
Instead of giving the Yankees a win, the game gets delayed for 91 minutes before starting up again in the Bottom of the 5th. Nonetheless, Brett Gardner would homer in the 8th and the Yankees would take an 8-4 win into the top of the 9th. No problem, right?
After a series of unfortunate events to start the top of the 9th, Jared Walsh stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Aroldis Chapman would promptly surrender a game tying Grand Slam to Jared Walsh. A slider that he sent into the Yankee bullpen.
That wouldn’t be it, though. The Angels would add two more in the same frame and eventually go on to win the game. Of all the bad losses this season, this one is the worst in terms of circumstance and sheer amount of runs allowed. Two rain delays and probably a game that shouldn’t have been allowed to continue ended in the Yankees’ worst loss of the season.
July 4th Vs. Mets
In the first game of a Double Header on American Independence Day versus the Mets, the Yankees suffered another heartbreaker. Also, I’d like to mention, that Gerrit Cole was on the mound for this one as well.
In a seven inning game, the Yankees would take a 5-4 lead into the top of the 7th. But in the first at-bat of the inning, Pete Alonso would hit a game-tying solo home run off Chapman. And much like in the game against the Angels, the Yankees wouldn’t be able to keep the game tied. The inning would eventually turn into an absolute meltdown, as the mets would put up a six spot and go on to win the game 10-5. In the span of a week, the Yankees had suffered two of the worst losses of the season.
But then came Boston again.
July 11th At Houston
The Yankees entered this game playing well, looking to finish off a six game road trip going 5-1 into the All-Star Break. They took a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Domingo German, who had been pitching well in relief, allowed back to back hits. With second and third nobody out, Chad Green came in to save the game.
Green would promptly surrender a two-run double to Chaz McCormick. Abraham Toro would follow that up with a double of his own to make it 7-5. Eventually, Jose Altuve would come to the plate down 7-5 with runners on the corners and one out. Altuve hit a 1-1 Curveball that was well out of the zone low over the left field fence. Instead of sweeping the Astros going into the break, the Yankees would be entering it on a note that they had already become too familiar with.
July 22nd At Boston
Following that meltdown against the Astros, the Yankees got hit with a slew of Covid-19 issues. Despite that, though, they would take two out of three from the Red Sox followed by a two-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies at home. They had one four in a row heading into Boston.
On July 22nd, it looked like the Yankees were going to continue their winning ways and take the first game of a four game set against the Red Sox. This would extend their win streak to five games.
With a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth, Chad Green came on to close out the game. But with two outs and runners on first and second, Kikè Hernandez would send a game tying double over Brett Gardner’s glove in left field, tying the game at 3. The Yankees would punch back, taking the lead in the top of the 10th on a Brett Gardner Sacrifice Fly.
Brooks Kriske would then come in to close it out for the Yankees in the bottom half. Kriske threw four wild pitches in the inning. Rafael Devers scored from 2nd on back to back Wild Pitches. Kriske would then walk Bogaerts and eventually surrender a walk off sacrifice fly (because Bogaerts got to third on more wild pitches) to Hunter Renfroe. Yankees fans had been handed another ‘worst loss of the season,’ but a new one was just mere days away.
July 25th At Boston
This loss is basically the reason I decided to write all of this out. It was the icing on the cake, if you will. Even though there are still more than 60 games left in this season.
Domingo German started this game for the Yankees taking a 4-0 lead and a no-hitter into the top of the 8th inning.
To start the bottom of the 8th, Alex Verdugo hit a double to right field. Domingo’s no-no bid was over and so was his day on the mound. Jonathan Loaisiga would then come into the game to face Hunter Renfroe, who promptly doubled in Verdugo to make it 4-1.
Christian Vazquez would then hit a bloop single to score Renfroe, 4-2. Franchy Cordero game up as the next batter and hit a single back up the middle. It was now first and second with nobody out for Kikè Hernandezm who hit a double off the Green Monster to make it 4-3 and put the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second with nobody out.
Kevin Plawecki then got the tying run in on a groundout, and Xander Bogaerts gave the Red Sox the lead on a sacrifice fly. From no hit bid with a 4-0 lead, with a chance to split a series at Fenway Park, to trailing 5-4 staring a series loss in the face.
The Yankees would show some life in the top of the ninth. Giancarlo Stanton hit a single with two outs and pinch runner Tyler Wade stole 2nd.
But Rougned Odor couldn’t find more magic as he popped out to Rafael Devers to lose the game. This is not a script that even the craziest screenwriter would be sick enough to come up with.
Thoughts on All of This
My first thought on all of this, and of course it’s a stupid one, is to think about the Yankees record if they win all of these games. Well, they would have 60 wins and probably be in first place in the AL East. Instead, they have 51 wins and are nine games back in the AL East. In other words, these 9 games are the difference between winning the division and not.
But let’s make it even more realistic, and we need to keep in mind that the Yankees have also won some games they were not supposed to. But all else equal, even if the Yankees just win four of these nine, they have 55 wins. That would put them in a tie with Oakland for the second Wild Card Spot, and standing pat or trading away some pieces at the deadline wouldn’t even be a thought. The 3.5 game deficit they face for the second Wild Card Spot would be for the Division lead instead.
But again, it’s important to keep in mind that these types of losses do happen throughout the course of a long season, and the Yankees have won games they were not supposed to. But, the bad losses have outnumbered the lucky wins. And, sure, sometimes that happens in baseball. But I can’t remember a time when a team had it this bad. Plenty of season left, but so much of the intrigue is wondering how in the world this nightmare season can get any worse. Or better yet, how in the world it can get better.