No loss is a good loss for the Yankees, especially one that drops them out of the playoff picture for the first time since Aug. 16.
A loss, however, can serve as a launching point. As inspiration. And if you’re a Yankee or one of their fans, that’s what you must hope will be the takeaway from your club’s thrilling, 7-6 defeat to the Mets on Sunday night at Citi Field.
The Yankees displayed a lot of fight here, in multiple ways. Can they carry that forward?
“Games like this, it’ll put a little spark in you where you can rattle off some wins,” said rookie Clarke Schmidt, who allowed five runs, only two of them earned, in his first big league start of the season.
“I feel like we’re fighting, we’re competing really well,” Aaron Boone said. “I know our guys are in the right headspace. We’re going through a tough stretch right now, a grueling stretch, but I like how we’re competing right now.
It is a grueling stretch, the Yankees (79-64) now 3-11 in their last 14, and with the Blue Jays (80-63) winning and Red Sox (81-64), they stand outside the October dance at the moment. Yet in their past two games, the Yankees defied their image, crafted by many of their own spoiled fans, of being a bunch of robots.
For when Giancarlo Stanton tied the game with a two-run blast in the seventh inning off Brad Hand, a 112.7 mph, 443-foot laser to center field, he didn’t make it around the bases without a pit stop, offering some words to Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor — who had conducted his own conversation with the Yankees after homering in the sixth — that sparked both benches to clear.
Brett Gardner, feisty until the end, gave the thumbs-down signal to the Mets, a hilarious reference to Mets’ recent decision to turn on their fans. Mets skipper Luis Rojas and Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin jawed at each other. It was tight, tense.
It was the by-product of some suspicious sounds emerging from the Yankees’ dugout on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees say their reliever Wandy Peralta was boisterous, trying to inject some energy, and they didn’t whistle as a way to share stolen signs from the Mets. Lindor said, “Something out of the ordinary was going on.”
Speaking of extraordinary, Lindor wound up winning the game with his third homer of the night in the bottom of the eighth off a Chad Green fastball, his true Met moment. The Yankees fought once more in the ninth, putting runners on first and second with one out, although they couldn’t deliver, Mets closer Edwin Diaz striking out Gardner and then following a James McCann passed ball, retiring Stanton on a humpback liner to Lindor in shallow left field.
With 19 games left, the Yankees’ schedule features some oases, specifically their next 10 games: One against the Twins and three each versus the Orioles, Indians and Rangers, with the only road series in Baltimore. Then it closes murderously: Three at the Red Sox, three at the Blue Jays and three at home against the Rays. Wow. Talk about a final exam.
Which means that the Yankees, having lost 11 of their last 14 tilts, had best prey on the weak. They failed to do that over Labor Day weekend when the Orioles came to The Bronx and took two of three. Yet if this weekend produced another series loss, their fourth straight, it produced some better vibes thanks to a come-from-behind win Saturday and nearly another one Sunday.
Vibes don’t pay the bills, though. The Yankees can’t afford many losses, no matter the silver linings, the rest of the way. It’s on them to keep bringing the fight.