NEW YORK -- In the long and storied history of the New York Yankees, there have been plenty of teams described as "unstoppable." And they all have one thing in common: At one point or another, they were, in fact, stopped.No Major League team has ever finished undefeated, nor has
NEW YORK -- In the long and storied history of the New York Yankees, there have been plenty of teams described as "unstoppable." And they all have one thing in common: At one point or another, they were, in fact, stopped.
No Major League team has ever finished undefeated, nor has any team ever been expected to. But this season's Yankees may feel the pressure to come close to that. After losing, 2-1, to the Giants in 12 innings Saturday, they fell to 4 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot with the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline now just eight days away.
Every loss represents not just another missed opportunity to climb toward a playoff spot, but a slide toward the near-inevitability of being sellers at the deadline. So, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi said a week ago and reiterated Saturday night, this is about as important of a July homestand as you'll ever see. Which, to relief pitcher Dellin Betances, is a bit unfair.
"Obviously we're not going to win every game," Betances said. "As hard as we play, we're going to lose some."
Of course the Yankees are going to lose a couple of games. As Carlos Beltrán said, that's baseball. But there's a stinging feeling that Girardi and catcher Brian McCann admitted to that sets a loss like Saturday's apart from a run-of-the-mill defeat.
If you were to simulate a textbook Yankees victory on a video game, you'd get a series of outcomes pretty similar to what actually happened Saturday. The starting pitcher would fight through six innings and keep runs off the scoreboard to the best of his ability. Ivan Nova did that, working seven innings and allowing just one run.
The hitters would get on base at a high rate. That happened too; the Yankees averaged more than a baserunner per inning off nine hits and four walks.
And then the bullpen trio of Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman would take over and vanquish the opponents as they seemingly always do. Coming into Saturday, the Yankees were 19-1 when all three pitched in the same game. And as with the previous two steps, the Yankees achieved this as well. No-Runs DMC combined to allow one hit in four innings while striking out six.
Everything the Yankees wanted to happen in order to get their 50th win happened. It just didn't work out.
"It's really difficult when something like that happens when you don't win a game like that when you have the opportunities," Girardi said. "But you have to find a way to move on."
That sentiment, the idea that it's time to move on, was the most prevalent one in the Yankees clubhouse after the loss. Everyone from Anthony Swarzak, who allowed the winning run to score in the top of the 12th, to Betances, who gutted out an inning despite having worked four of the last six games, to McCann, who failed to drive in a run with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, echoed the idea.
McCann in particular relied on that notion, saying the only outlook the team can have right now is that it needs to win games. The players might not talk about the Trade Deadline much, but they're not shut-ins. They know what's happening. McCann made that mighty clear.
"Listen, we're coming here every day with the mindset to win ballgames," McCann said. "When we don't, it's disappointing. We know where we're at, so we've got to win games."
And what's the alternative if the pressure of having to win every day gets to them? Well, there really isn't one.
"It's just the position we put ourselves in," McCann said. "We know where we're at and that's it."
Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.