The Yankees are feeling the pressure, but they aren’t panicking through the tough stretch

from Disha Tosar
FOX Sports MLB Writer

NEW YORK – Where it appeared Yankees‘ boast I go?

He has been out for several weeks as an uninspiring and disjointed New York lineup has been shut out in four of its last nine games. There was no sense of confidence in the most critical moments of the Yankees’ 0-4 loss to the Rays on Monday in front of 42,192 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 12 games and have scored just eight runs in their last 59 innings, or five games.

“Right now, we have to do better,” manager Aaron Boone said after Monday’s loss. “It’s hard. It’s hard right now. We have to find a way. We have to keep digging ourselves out of it. You go through something like that, a few guys struggling a little bit with their confidence right now, you’ve got to find a way when it’s tough.”

Fans are pissed. They spent money on parking, tickets, food and drinks and packed Yankee Stadium just to watch their team crumble to a division rival. The fans booed him in the fourth inning after a particularly underwhelming fight from outfielder Aaron Hicks. High-decibel boos erupted after Hicks, with the bases loaded and the Yankees down by one run, grounded into an inning-ending double play.

It marked the fourth time this season that Hicks has hit that mark, which leads the major leagues.

At least some Yankees are struggling with the strain of their recent stretch. Boone brought that up multiple times in his postgame press conference on Monday. “A few people carry it,” he repeated over and over.

But what always followed that recognition was Boone’s expectation that his players must be prepared to navigate and deal with adversity.

“Obviously, it’s not nice to hear boos,” said Hicks, who is slashing .218/.339/.305 in 102 games this year. “But when you have the season the way I have, things go some way, especially here. They want results.”

“Your people are catching on. It’s part of this business. That’s part of wearing that uniform — of course, wearing the stripes,” Boone said. “It will be time for an instinctive check. It will be difficult at different times of the season. We’ve got to find a way to level through it and just focus on your process, playing your game.”

How much panic did this disappointing stretch cause in the clubhouse? Honestly, not much. Despite going 8-16 since the All-Star break, the Yankees still lead the American League East by 10 games. They can thank the Blue Jays for that significant advantage. Toronto is 3-8 in its last 11 games and has so far been unable to capitalize on the Yankees’ second-half slump.

The Yankees will insist their double-digit division lead is not complacent. Ask them about their possible lack of urgency and they’ll laugh, as Gerrit Cole did Monday after his strong six innings of one-hit ball against the Rays.

The Yankees are motivated to win every night, third baseman Josh Donaldson said, and nobody in this clubhouse is waiting for a magic potion to come and save them.

“We come to play every day,” Donaldson said. “We don’t feel complacent about what we do. But we realize – we’ve earned the cushion we have right now. And no one is worried that we lost a few games. It is obvious that we are not trying to create a habit. We know we have the team to compete and win a lot of games like we have this year.”

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The Yankees are disappointed, of course. First baseman Anthony Rizzo cracked his helmet on the bench over and over and over again after hitting lefty Ryan Yarbrough in the third inning on Monday. Losing is disgusting, and no one wants to get back to winning ways more than the Yankees. After all, they were on the verge of setting records this season. Many expected the 2022 Bronx Bombers, whose 64 first-half wins set a franchise record, to break the 2001 Mariners record of 116 wins in a season. But with the way they’ve been playing lately, it’s hard to believe this team is being compared to the vaunted 1998 Yankees.

While this recent stretch has given fans every reason to question whether this is a championship-caliber team, the Yankees’ division advantage means they still have a 100 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. That the Blue Jays squandered an opportunity to pounce on the Yankees, who are going through everything, means New York can afford to practice patience and trust the process.

It might sound boring, Boone said, but that’s really all the Yankees can do in these dog days of August. Well, that and looking forward to the return of their injured players, key cogs like Giancarlo Stanton (left Achilles inflammation) and DJ LeMahieu (toe injury).

“It’s just a matter of making everything click,” Boone said. “We had some key guys to varying degrees in that stretch. But it happens to everyone. You have to be able to find a way when you don’t have to have them all or it’s not perfect. That’s our biggest challenge now — is finding a way to push through a lot of these games where a lot of good things happen, but we’re not good enough to shake our hands at the end of the day.”

With the Yankees (72-44) trying to get through the baseball calendar and weather their unfortunate injuries, the schedule is especially difficult. They are in the midst of a three-game stretch against the Rays (61-53), followed by a four-game stretch against the Blue Jays (61-53), in which the Yankees’ still-strong lead could really take a hit if Toronto seizes the opportunity. Then New York’s nine-game homestand ends with the final Subway Series of the regular season, against a Mets team (75-41) that looked unstoppable behind Max Scherzer and Jacob de Grom.

This home run could still be a turning point for a team that has been relentless to start the season. Aaron Judge and his major league-leading 46 home runs are a constant threat to the lineup. The Yankees’ pitching staff, ranked third in MLB with a 3.29 ERA, is starting to get back on track. Cole has allowed just one run in his last 18 innings. There are encouraging pieces that hold this team together. Now they just need a spark – and some consistency – to regain their swagger.

“It’s just one of those funks that’s hard to put into words,” Cole said. “The challenge is that it can be a bit disheartening when you’re in that situation and, you know, we’re giving ourselves away and not getting the results. But no one will feel sorry for you. Baseball is tough and things like this happen.

“You can’t choose as a player and as a team what bad things happen to you. You can only choose how to react to it.”

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for three and a half seasons as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Disha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. She never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone she’s playing in. Follow her on Twitter at @Disha Tosar.

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