BOSTON — He stood in foul territory down the proper 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 Bucky Dent, 69 years outdated, silver hair beneath his Yankees cap, had flown in from Florida to see his outdated group face the Boston Pink Sox at Fenway Park with the season at stake.
Out of the blue a ball got here roaring his method.
“They’re attempting to kill me over right here!” Dent exclaimed, but it surely was pleasant fireplace from batting apply, 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 evening.
There have been no new heroes on the Yankees’ facet of baseball’s best rivalry. There haven’t been for some time. The Pink Sox eliminated the Yankees, swiftly and emphatically, in a 6-2 victory within the American League wild-card game. The Yankees struck out 11 instances and not using a stroll, and the final six spots of their lineup mixed to go 1 for 20 with an infield single.
“Sick to my abdomen,” 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 heart discipline within the first inning. “That’s the most effective pitcher they’ve received. That’s the man they gave all that cash to.”
Spending isn’t an issue for the Yankees, who often plow greater than $200 million into their annual payroll however can not discover their method again to the World Collection. They’ve made it simply as soon as within the final 18 seasons — in 2009, after they gained their final title. The Pink 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 usual — stormed to the A.L. East division crown with 100 victories, eight greater than the Yankees and the Pink Sox.
Yankees Supervisor Aaron Boone, whose contract is expiring, issued a problem, of kinds, to the gamers after Tuesday’s loss. He didn’t body it that technique 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 hole on us,” Boone mentioned. “We now have to get higher. We now have to get higher in each side. It’s not simply the Pink Sox and the Astros now in our league. Have a look at our division. The Rays are a beast, Toronto, and there’s some groups within the Central which can be getting higher and higher, groups within the West which can be higher and higher. Groups which have closed the hole on us, and that must be entrance and heart as guys put together within the low season.”
Unsaid, however unmistakable, is that the Yankees have gotten precisely what they worry: unusual.
They nonetheless have superstars to drive their model, particularly Aaron Decide and Giancarlo Stanton. However they scored solely 711 runs this season — the Pink Sox, the Blue Jays, the Rays, the Astros and the World Collection 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 Younger Award, however he pale down the stretch and pitched so poorly Tuesday that he agreed with Boone’s resolution to carry him with no outs within the third.
“We’ve received to win,” Cole mentioned. “That’s the proper transfer.”
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 Inexperienced Monster, which might have been a game-tying homer within the Bronx.
“Every sport counts,” Stanton mentioned. “All we wanted was yet one more and we’d have this at house. So yeah, they are going to come again to chunk you.”
The Yankees had overcome a listless first half to nudge forward within the wild-card race with a late-September sweep at Fenway. However the Pink Sox caught them within the remaining week, incomes the proper to host the sport as a result of they gained the season collection from the Yankees, 10-9.
And so it was that Stanton’s excessive, deep drive turned disastrous. Decide, 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 Pink Sox acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles after they traded their cornerstone outfielder, Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers in early 2020. The deal was extensively reviled in Boston, and the Pink Sox fell flat in that shortened season.
Verdugo is just not Betts, however he’s not dangerous, and the Pink Sox appear to have survived the short-term ache of Betts’s departure. The Yankees, in the meantime, are nearing the same crossroads with Decide, who is usually a free agent after the 2022 season and can break the bank to retain.
“I need to be a Yankee for all times,” Decide mentioned. “I need to put on the pinstripes the remainder of my profession and signify this nice group and convey a championship again to town. However you by no means know what the long run holds for you.”
The Yankees have constructed round Decide since his arrival from the minors in August 2016. That they had simply achieved a roster reset, buying and selling veterans for a prospect haul that included Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and others. However Frazier has been injured, Sheffield was traded for the departed James Paxton, and Torres has regressed sharply, on the plate and within the discipline.
A number of different hitters have additionally pale, like Gary Sanchez, who has batted .201 throughout the final 4 seasons and has by no means cast a partnership with Cole. Accidents sidelined or impeded infielders D.J. LeMahieu and Luke Voit. And Gallo — who’s beneath group management for subsequent season after a trade from Texas in July — usually appeared like an computerized out. He batted .160 as a Yankee, with 88 strikeouts in 188 at-bats.
“This was, total, a troublesome go for us to actually be the offensive juggernaut we’ve come to count on,” Boone conceded. “I’m unsure why we didn’t notice 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, dwelling legends like Bucky and Reggie and Goose, Derek and Bernie and Mo.
However currently yearly ends the identical method, in need of the World Collection, in need of the exacting commonplace that makes every autumn appear much less joyful.
“It’s black and white for me: you both win otherwise you don’t win,” Decide mentioned. “We didn’t win. It’s a failure.”