MIAMI -- There have been far too many contenders for the Yankees’ worst loss of the season, but as a stunned Clay Holmes trudged off the mound at loanDepot park on Sunday afternoon, it was impossible not to see this as one of the front-runners.
Holmes blew a four-run lead in a nightmarish ninth inning, committing a throwing error that allowed two runs to score before surrendering Luis Arraez’s game-tying triple. Jake Burger delivered the winning hit off Tommy Kahnle as the Yankees absorbed an 8-7 loss.
“Every loss at this point, it’s not fun,” Holmes said. “We know that the mountain gets bigger with every loss. We know we have to put together some wins, string them together and get some momentum going. Losses like these, they hurt.”
The collapse ranks among the Yankees’ most painful gut punches of the year, owning an immediate place on the mantle with May 1 vs. Cleveland, July 9 vs. the Cubs and July 16 at Colorado, alongside a few others. But given the late month on the calendar and the Yanks’ desperation to win games, let alone a series, this one stung considerably.
New York (60-58) now sits five games back in the American League Wild Card chase, preparing to open a three-game series on Monday against baseball’s best team, the Braves.
“When the season’s over with, whenever it ends, you can reflect on games like this,” Aaron Judge said. “But we’ve got to move forward. We’re facing a great team tomorrow. I know this one sucks right here, especially with the lead we had and the at-bats we had. But we’ve got to show up tomorrow.”
At one point, the Yankees led Miami by a score of 7-1, with Anthony Volpe and Ben Rortvedt hitting homers to support Gerrit Cole’s strong six-inning effort. New York held a four-run advantage going to the ninth inning, and Boone called upon Holmes, who had pitched to a sub-1.00 ERA since May 5.
But the sinkerballer didn’t have it this time. Yuli Gurriel thumped a hard full-count double to right, an immediate “uh-oh” moment, and Nick Fortes reached on a one-out infield hit before Holmes walked Jazz Chisholm Jr., loading the bases.
Josh Bell followed with a tapper back toward the mound that Holmes fielded, but his throw to first base was off-line, allowing two runs to score. Boone suggested the ball might have been a double play had Holmes not touched it.
“It was definitely a big momentum change,” Holmes said. “Probably my feet set in a weird position. Maybe my direction was off and up the baseline a bit. Especially with a big guy like Josh Bell running there, I needed to give the first baseman some room and I wasn’t able to do that.”
That brought up Arraez. Holmes got ahead in an 0-2 count, then pumped a sinker low and inside to the lefty. Arraez slashed it past first baseman Jake Bauers, and the ball rattled into the right-field corner for a game-tying triple.
Boone trudged to the mound to retrieve the baseball from Holmes, hearing loud boos from a large pro-Yankees contingent within the crowd of 35,043, the third-largest non-Opening Day assemblage for a Marlins game at this ballpark.
With the winning run 90 feet away, Kahnle issued a walk, then saw five infielders and two outfielders behind him. When Bryan De La Cruz trotted to second base on defensive indifference, Boone said he gave no thought to walking Burger, not wanting to set up a situation where a walk would force in a run. Instead, Burger cleanly lashed a hit into left field.
“We know we’ve got to rack up wins,” Boone said. “As tough as this one is to swallow, you’ve got to move on from it.”
There are still optimistic words spoken within the clubhouse walls: That there is still time left on the clock and that anything can happen. But the Yankees privately understand how dire their situation has become. Sunday’s loss was unacceptable, giving their ace an early advantage, seemingly cruising toward a rare series victory.
And that brings us to a statistic that is most telling for a team that believes it should be, as general manager Brian Cashman said at the Trade Deadline, “in it to win it.”
Including this defeat, the Yankees are 1-8-3 in their past 12 series, dating to July 1. Their lone series win was the July 21-23 sweep of the Royals, an opponent who had no illusions about contending for the postseason in 2023.
“We’ve just got to flush it and get back on the process,” Cole said. “We’ve got a tough series coming up. As a player, you’ve got to have a short memory in this situation and try to prepare for tomorrow as quickly as possible.”