This 60-game sprint has reinforced the Yankees’ belief that they are built for their home ballpark, where they have won three times as many games as not. The flip side is that they’re struggling mightily on the road, a significant concern considering that the eventual champion will have to triumph in an unfamiliar building.
As the Yankees return to the Bronx for their final homestand of the regular season, their odds of hosting additional games at Yankee Stadium were dealt another blow on Thursday. New York’s bats were largely silent in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., its fourth defeat in five games.
“It’s something that needs to be corrected quickly,” said outfielder Brett Gardner. “Anybody can get hot at any time. The best team doesn’t always win in October; usually it’s the team that gets the hottest and plays the best at the end. Hopefully that’s going to be us.”
Held without a home run for a fourth consecutive game, their longest drought since June 2016, the Yankees fell to 11-18 on the road this season. Their 21-7 home record rates second in the Major Leagues, yet that may not be enough to close the gap on the Twins, White Sox and Indians in a crowded race for the American League’s fourth playoff seed.
“We’re going to have to do better than that,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I do know that if we’re playing our best, [I don't care] where it is. We’ll get it rolling, but we’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball.”
Montgomery permitted Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s second-inning homer and Bo Bichette’s third-inning RBI double, and he was charged with three runs on six hits in an 88-pitch effort. Ottavino surrendered a two-run double to rookie Alejandro Kirk.
“Some days, it’s easy. Some days, it’s hard,” Montgomery said. “I feel like we’re playing better baseball. We’re making the plays we’re supposed to make. The bats will come alive. I’ve got full faith and confidence in our lineup and every hitter we’ve got.”
Boone said earlier on Thursday that he envisions a “day-to-day” postseason decision in starting Sánchez or Higashioka behind the plate. Higashioka, who went hitless in three at-bats on Thursday, has clicked particularly well with ace right-hander Gerrit Cole.
Yet to Boone, Sánchez seemed to be the right choice at that juncture. On Aug. 30, Sánchez came off the bench to deliver the first pinch-hit grand slam of his career, lifting the Yanks to an extra-innings victory over the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
“The at-bats in the month of September have been a lot better and a lot more competitive,” Boone said. “He can change a game with one swing.”
Facing right-hander Rafael Dolis, Sánchez swung awkwardly at a pitch in the dirt, then made a bid to reverse his nightmarish season as he barreled a bases-loaded drive to left-center field.
“Gary put a good swing on that ball,” Gardner said. “Just a couple of inches away.”
The ball came off Sánchez’s bat at 104.5 mph and carried an expected batting average of .880, but those advanced metrics meant nothing as it dropped into center fielder Randal Grichuk’s glove for a long inning-ending out at the wall.
“I was pretty excited,” Higashioka said. “It would have been his second pinch-hit granny this year. But then we got pretty sad after that.”