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Lapses, miscues costly in loss to Astros

@alysonfooter
April 10, 2019

HOUSTON -- As they attempt to muddle through the early portion of their schedule missing almost a dozen players with injuries, the Yankees are going to seem out of sync at times. That may or may not explain the mental lapses and defensive miscues that cost them in their 6-3

HOUSTON -- As they attempt to muddle through the early portion of their schedule missing almost a dozen players with injuries, the Yankees are going to seem out of sync at times.

That may or may not explain the mental lapses and defensive miscues that cost them in their 6-3 loss to the Astros on Tuesday, but there is no denying there is still plenty of work to do -- and plenty of time to do it -- if this team intends to stay afloat while it waits for some of its injured players to heal.

"I feel like we’re close to breaking out and the guys that needed to step up to some degree have, and are getting opportunities right now," manager Aaron Boone said. "There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get this baby rolling."

If they do reach a turning point soon, maybe they’ll look at Tuesday’s game as a wakeup call. It’s still much too early in the season for them to start worrying that this may turn into a weeks- or months-long trend, but the Yankees, while missing key members, are still savvy and experienced enough to realize games like they played on Tuesday aren’t going to cut it.

"There have been times that we’ve made mistakes -- myself included -- that we need to clean up and play a little better baseball," center fielder Brett Gardner said. "When you’re playing a team as good as the Astros, you can’t afford to give away extra outs, and you can’t afford to make mistakes. They’ll come back to haunt you."

And that they did, several times throughout this game. Gardner had one of the more egregious lapses in judgment, which was surprising given his reputation as one of the more heady players in the game.

The Yankees had runners on first and second and no outs in the third inning, and Gardner, facing Houston hurler Gerrit Cole, made the decision to bunt. The ball barely moved, took an odd bounce and Gardner, thinking it was foul, did not run to first.

He was still standing near the plate when Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos made a laser throw to second to nab Austin Romine. Carlos Correa then threw to first to complete the double play.

Gardner briefly argued with home-plate umpire Larry Vanover, who informed him that Chirinos picked up the ball when it was still on top of the baseline.

"It didn’t go foul," Gardner said. "I should have run to first base, and I basically gave them two outs right there. I thought it was a big turning point in the game. It was a big mistake on my part."

Gardner wasn’t the only one who had a rough night. Left fielder Clint Frazier seemingly was an unintended target for Michael Brantley, who sent two fly balls Frazier’s way -- one in the second, another in the seventh. Frazier dove twice, and both times the balls clanked off his glove and scooted away.

As soon as Frazier landed on the second play, he pounded his fists on the ground in frustration, retrieved the ball and threw it high, far past second base. A good throw wouldn’t have mattered, though; Brantley was in safely, and Alex Bregman scored easily, tying the score at 3.

"It’s never happened -- popped out of my glove twice tonight," Frazier said. "And it’s never an easy play whenever you leave your feet. It’s not an excuse -- I should have caught both of those balls."

Chalk this one up to a bad day at the office. Teams will have those -- several of those, in fact, over the course of a six-month season. That’s where the little things can come into play, and the Yankees are keenly aware that defensive lapses and mental mistakes are costly, especially when playing the defensively sound, hard-hitting Astros.

"I feel like we’re prepared, I feel like the guys are focused, I love the way the guys are competing," Boone said. “When you’re not clicking on all cylinders, you have to do the little things, because every little thing matters. It’s important that we learn from every time there is a bump in the road. Every time there is a mistake, we learn from it, grow from it, and I’m confident we will."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.