Bronx, NY – Derek Jeter returned to his old stomping grounds at Yankee Stadium Friday night and his 2020 Hall of Fame Cooperstown plague was on display on the field. He got most of the cheers along with his former Yankees teammates.
And it was the only reason for Yankees fans to cheer because again their miserable offensive struggles continued as the second place Tampa Bay Rays inched closer. The once invincible Yankees division lead of 15-½ games is down to two in the loss column.
Do the math because the Rays are within 3-½ games of first place after their 4-2 win in an important September three-game series. No kidding here, because the Yankees are confronted with adversity of seven impact players on the injured list.
However, the Rays look like the better team. A run to overtake the Yankees in the AL East at one time appeared to be improbable. No kidding now, because the Rays are making this a race for the division as the Yankees continue to fall.
And the Rays roster is almost back to full strength, another reason the Yankees have to be concerned as their once dominant lineup is different which makes the Yankees task much more difficult and that was inconceivable at one time.
Jeter said he was so gracious to have spent 23 years of baseball with the Yankees organization, and even during his time with five World Series championship teams there was adversity, though, perhaps not compared to this Yankees team that is trying to find an answer.
But the Yankees don’t have Jeter, a captain who managed to be their leader whenever those championship teams hit hard times and the only comparison with this Yankees team is Aaron Judge,
Though when Judge does not hit another home run ball it seems the Yankees are more in a struggle to score runs. HIs 2-for-4 night was minus the home run and two strikeouts.
Manager Aaron Boone is trying different ways to adjust the lineup as the regulars attempt to return, regardless, this has been bad Yankees baseball and that continued..
Boone lifted Aaron Hicks after he botched consecutive plays in left field that led to run scoring plays for the Rays in the fourth inning. The Yankees could not battle back and failed to score when they had runners on base.
“I guess it’s all about into why I made the decision, feeling like it was having an effect and I just felt like I needed to do it,” Boone said about lifting Hicks who continued his season-long frustration at the plate.
Randy Arozarena hit one of those run scoring doubles that went over Hicks’ head in left. He and Wander Franco (Bari, Dominican Republic) combined for six hits and two runs.
Franco, the 2021 Latino Sports AL Rookie MVP Award recipient, fresh off a brief stint on the injured list with a broken bone in his right hand, went 3-for- 5 with two RBI. And the Rays have that added punch at the plate with Franco in their everyday lineup.
“When you have a guy like him in the lineup, he makes a lot of contact and when he does that, he gets on base a lot,” Arozarena said through a team interpreter. “That helps the rest of the of the lineup be a little bit more confident when you’re up at bat,
And right now, the Yankees roster is not constructed with a lineup that can rival what the Rays are putting on the field, again give credit to rookies Oswaldo Cabrera and top prospect Oswald Peraza, but they are struggling and have been put in a position of trying to provide a spark to an anemic offense, the pressure, whether they admit it or not could be too much to handle.
Let’s face it, Aaron Judge as the leadoff catalyst is not in that customary spot as the run producer. Miguel Andujar, between up and down stints with Triple-A Scranton, has struggled with adjusting and the rest of the iineup has resembled a Yankees spring training roster.
Gleyber Torres, his season long struggles continued though he made contact in the 9th inning with a long ball to the warning track that looked good but came up shy of a two-out game tying home run ball.
So the Yankees are now in that position of avoiding a three-game sweep and at most take two of three from the surging Rays who have won 20 of their last 25 ball games.
To say the Rays are a better team, well that’s fair to say. To say the Yankees will climb out of this struggle is not easy to say. This is the September stretch and every game has implications.
Though, every game now is crucial for the Yankees, and who would have thought of that months ago when their division lead was difficult to overtake.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com. Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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