BOSTON — He stood in foul territory down the correct discipline line on Tuesday, again on the scene of his well-known house run, way back on a golden October afternoon. Bucky Dent, 69 years outdated, silver hair beneath his Yankees cap, had flown in from Florida to see his outdated group face the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with the season at stake.
Suddenly a ball got here roaring his manner.
“They’re trying to kill me over here!” Dent exclaimed, but it surely was pleasant hearth from batting follow, a hooking liner by a Yankee that rattled round his legs. It turned out to be one of many hardest balls the Yankees hit all night time.
There have been no new heroes on the Yankees’ aspect of baseball’s best rivalry. There haven’t been for some time. The Red Sox eradicated the Yankees, swiftly and emphatically, in a 6-2 victory within the American League wild-card recreation. The Yankees struck out 11 occasions with no stroll, and the final six spots of their lineup mixed to go 1 for 20 with an infield single.
“Sick to my stomach,” mentioned Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, describing how he felt after lasting solely two innings, permitting two homers, two walks and three runs. It was Cole’s shortest begin since 2016, lengthy earlier than the Yankees signed him for 9 years and $324 million.
“We knocked out their ace,” mentioned Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, who blasted a two-run homer to middle discipline within the first inning. “That’s the best pitcher they’ve got. That’s the guy they gave all that money to.”
Spending is never an issue for the Yankees, who often plow greater than $200 million into their annual payroll however can’t discover their manner again to the World Series. They have made it simply as soon as within the final 18 seasons — in 2009, once they received their final title. The Red Sox have captured 4 in that stretch.
Boston now faces the reigning A.L. champions, the Tampa Bay Rays, in a best-of-five division collection. The Rays — thrifty and thriving, as regular — stormed to the A.L. East division crown with 100 victories, eight greater than the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, whose contract is expiring, issued a problem, of types, to the gamers after Tuesday’s loss. He didn’t body it that solution to reporters, however how else to interpret a part of Boone’s message, that the league is now stuffed with imposing rivals?
“The league’s closed the gap on us,” Boone mentioned. “We have to get better. We have to get better in every aspect. It’s not just the Red Sox and the Astros now in our league. Look at our division. The Rays are a beast, Toronto, and there’s some teams in the Central that are getting better and better, teams in the West that are better and better. Teams that have closed the gap on us, and that needs to be front and center as guys prepare in the off-season.”
Unsaid, however unmistakable, is that the Yankees are turning into precisely what they concern: strange.
They nonetheless have superstars to drive their model, particularly Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But they scored solely 711 runs this season — the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, the Rays, the Astros and the World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, all outscored them by greater than 100.
The Yankees have just one starter, Cole, who can reliably work deep in video games. Cole stands an opportunity at successful the A.L. Cy Young Award, however he light down the stretch and pitched so poorly Tuesday that he agreed with Boone’s choice to raise him with no outs within the third.
“We’ve got to win,” Cole mentioned. “That’s the right move.”
The rating was solely 3-0, but the sport was all however out of attain. Nathan Eovaldi and 4 relievers dealt with the Yankees’ boom-or-bust offense with ease, permitting two solo homers and little else. Stanton rued his sixth-inning shot off the Green Monster, which might have been a game-tying homer within the Bronx.
“Each game counts,” Stanton mentioned. “All we needed was one more and we would have this at home. So yeah, they will come back to bite you.”
The Yankees had overcome a listless first half to nudge forward within the wild-card race with a late-September sweep at Fenway. But the Red Sox caught them within the closing week, incomes the correct to host the sport as a result of they received the season collection from the Yankees, 10-9.
And so it was that Stanton’s excessive, deep drive turned disastrous. Judge, who was working from first, received thrown out on the plate by Bogaerts. Joey Gallo popped out, and for the Yankees, the season dissolved in a flurry of walks by the bullpen and run-scoring hits by Alex Verdugo.
The Red Sox acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles once they traded their cornerstone outfielder, Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers in early 2020. The deal was extensively reviled in Boston, and the Red Sox fell flat in that shortened season.
Verdugo will not be Betts, however he’s not dangerous, and the Red Sox appear to have survived the short-term ache of Betts’s departure. The Yankees, in the meantime, are nearing the same crossroads with Judge, who is usually a free agent after the 2022 season and can break the bank to retain.
“I want to be a Yankee for life,” Judge mentioned. “I want to wear the pinstripes the rest of my career and represent this great organization and bring a championship back to the city. But you never know what the future holds for you.”
The Yankees have constructed round Judge since his arrival from the minors in August 2016. They had simply carried out a roster reset, buying and selling veterans for a prospect haul that included Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and others. But Frazier has been injured, Sheffield was traded for the departed James Paxton, and Torres has regressed sharply, on the plate and within the discipline.
Several different hitters have additionally light, like Gary Sanchez, who has batted .201 throughout the final 4 seasons and has by no means solid a partnership with Cole. Injuries sidelined or impeded infielders D.J. LeMahieu and Luke Voit. And Gallo — who’s below group management for subsequent season after a commerce from Texas in July — typically appeared like an automated out. He batted .160 as a Yankee, with 88 strikeouts in 188 at-bats.
“This was, overall, a tough go for us to really be the offensive juggernaut we’ve come to expect,” Boone conceded. “I’m not sure why we didn’t realize our potential there.”
Now they’ve an additional month to consider it, as the primary group to shuffle off the postseason stage. The Yankees will all the time have their historical past — 57 postseason appearances, 40 pennants, 27 titles, residing legends like Bucky and Reggie and Goose, Derek and Bernie and Mo.
But these days yearly ends the identical manner, in need of the World Series, in need of the exacting commonplace that makes every autumn appear much less joyful.
“It’s black and white for me: you either win or you don’t win,” Judge mentioned. “We didn’t win. It’s a failure.”