Dellin Betances blew a game in the ninth inning Thursday night, yielding as many runs (three) as he had over his previous 39 outings dating to mid-May.
But the Yankees were blowing this game all night by continuing to play in a way both uninspiring and unacceptable. They flubbed in the field and on the bases and ultimately on the scoreboard, losing 8-7 to the woeful Tigers.
The Yankees are letting any long-shot chance of catching the Red Sox or comfortably holding the top wild-card spot drip away by playing down to opponents. A team with heavyweight-title dreams is faltering against lightweights.
“To win big, we have to get better at curtailing [the poor play],” Aaron Boone said.
J.A. Happ made his worst start in six as a Yankee. But the coconspirators in five runs and 10 hits in 4 ¹/₃ innings were five poor plays by the infield over the first five innings that cost Happ extra pitches and extra runs.
Second baseman Neil Walker twice could not turn grounders by speedy Niko Goodrum into outs. After the second one, Ronny Rodriguez hit a two-run homer. A lunging Luke Voit could not handle a Nicholas Castellanos grounder that went for an infield single. Victor Martinez followed with a two-run homer. Add in an error by shortstop Gleyber Torres and a botched rundown by Miguel Andujar and, well, there was not going to be any Tinker to Evers to Chance poetry written about this infield.
Perhaps the return in the next few days of Didi Gregorius at shortstop, which will move Torres back to second, will help.
But Aaron Boone also will have to work on base-running reeducation. For the second straight game, the Yankees ran into an out on the bases with Giancarlo Stanton either up (Torres failing to score Wednesday night on an errant pitch) or on deck (Brett Gardner being thrown out at third). That took a runner off the bases prior to Stanton’s milestone 300th homer.
The Yankees lost despite that two-run homer by Stanton, and also two-run shots by Torres and Voit. They fell to a Tigers team that had lost five straight and managed 10 runs total in those games.
They could not be saved by the long ball that has saved them so much this season — in part because Happ and Betances combined to allow five homers to the team with the majors’ fewest homers. But also because the Yankees did not play well in any phase.
They have the rest of this weekend against the Tigers, 26 games under .500, to try to snap from the sleepwalk before three critical games at Oakland.
For a team still on pace to better 100 wins, the Yankees have lost their way. They are failing to capitalize on a weak part of their schedule because they are imitating those poor clubs.
This is a style that will make their last month miserable and guarantee their October play is brief. They are lost. Can they rediscover their better selves?
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