The long seasons change in baseball, but one thing never changes from one long season to the next, and that is how fast and how often the narrative changes across 162 games. You don't have to look any further than the current steel-cage match in the American League East, which
The long seasons change in baseball, but one thing never changes from one long season to the next, and that is how fast and how often the narrative changes across 162 games. You don't have to look any further than the current steel-cage match in the American League East, which suddenly looks a lot different as we near the end of July than it did at the beginning. Which is the biggest reason why July really has changed back into April.
On the first night of July, in an ESPN Sunday night game, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 11-1. David Price pitched for Boston and gave up nine hits and eight runs to New York, and he had Red Sox fans wishing he had sat this one out with carpal tunnel syndrome the way he sat out a start in May. When the Sox left town that night, they were 56-29 and the Yanks were 54-27, and even though they were effectively tied for first in the East, the Bronx Bombers were the ones two games ahead in the loss column.
Twenty-three days and one All-Star break later, the Yankees had lost six games in the loss column, were six games behind the Sox, and had played 8-8 ball since July 1. The Red Sox? They had lost just two games after Price got shellacked the way he did, one to the Blue Jays and one last weekend to the Tigers. So this really was what it was like when Boston started 17-2 and New York started 9-9, before the Yanks got really hot and flipped a switch and the narrative in the East, winning 37 of their next 49 games, looking better than the Red Sox and Astros and everybody.
Even after Gary Sanchez was injured at the end of June, things still looked pretty swell on that first night of July. But since then, Gleyber Torres has gotten hurt and Luis Severino-- who pitched 6 2/3 two-hit, shutout innings against the Red Sox in that Sunday Night game -- has gotten bounced around a couple of times. Sanchez is healthy again, but his batting average isn't, not at a smooth .188.
And after Monday night's loss to the Rays in St. Petersburg, Yankees fans were about as happy with Sanchez as Mets fans are with Yoenis Cespedes these days. There was a passed ball in the first inning that he didn't chase nearly hard enough, and the result was the first Rays' run of the game. Then Sanchez and Severino, the guy who threw the pitch, had words in the dugout about getting crossed up on signals, and perhaps more than that. Sanchez's problems were only beginning, because of the way his night would end.
It was still 7-6 for the Rays in the top of the ninth, but the Yankees had scored three in the seventh and still had bases loaded with two out and -- guess who? -- Sanchez coming to the plate. He hit a grounder to Tampa Bay second baseman Daniel Robertson, playing the shortstop position on a shift. Robertson flipped the ball to Rays shortstop Willy Adames at second, looking for the force play that would have ended the game. Only the runner from first, Aaron Hicks beat the throw, by which time Aaron Judge had crossed home plate with what should have been the Yanks' game-tying seventh run.
Except that Adames still had time to throw out Sanchez at first base for a 4-6-3 play that only got the Rays one out, but still won them the game. How was Adames able to do that? Because Sanchez had come out of the box clearly assuming that his grounder had ended the game, and he looked like a mover with a sofa on his back.
"I should've run harder," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I could've done a better job, for sure."
So the Yankees lost another game as the Red Sox were winning again. The Yanks weren't just 9-8 in July at that point, they were 13-13 over their past 26. Doesn't mean that Sanchez turned into John Dillinger on Monday night. Doesn't mean that the Yankees and Red Sox aren't going to chase each other all the way to the last weekend of the regular season at Fenway Park. It just means that New York is doing the chasing now, the way it started out chasing Boston (which came out of Monday night a snappy 40 games over .500) in April.
There was always going to be a certain amount of urgency for the Yankees to get more pitching at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, starting or relieving or both. There is just more now for Brian Cashman, who suddenly looks like as big a Yankee to Yankee fans as Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. And, let's face it, there was always going to be a sense of urgency for Cashman this season since he's the only who really made the call to change managers -- Joe Girardi to Aaron Boone -- even though Girardi's team was one victory away from the World Series last October.
Lot of distance between the Yankees and last October. But the next October keeps getting closer. Yeah. Things change fast in baseball, all the way to Sanchez running as slowly as he did around Tropicana Field on Monday night.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.