As the bottom of the eighth inning began on Sunday afternoon in Boston, all eyes were on Domingo Germán.
The right-hander was six outs away from a no-hitter, pitching the game of his life in a must-win contest for the Yankees.
Less than 20 minutes later, the Red Sox did much more than just break up Germán's no-hit bid. Boston erupted for five runs in the eighth, closing it out the following frame to hand New York their latest nightmarish loss of the season.
Germán was magnificent, striking out 10 while allowing just two baserunners through his first seven innings. He even recorded four strikeouts in the seventh, working around a dropped third strike as his pitch count continued to rise.
Then, Alex Verdugo's leadoff double in the eighth opened the floodgates.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone quickly summoned right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga out of the bullpen, set to make his second appearance (in as many days) since a stint on the COVID-19 injured list.
Red Sox fans at Fenway Park had been silent all afternoon. Four consecutive hits later, the crowd was deafening.
Loaisiga was chased from the game as Boone brought in Zack Britton with runners on second and third base, all of a sudden hanging on to a slim, one-run lead. Britton didn't give up any hits, but an RBI groundout to shortstop and a sacrifice fly to shallow right field gave Boston a 5-4 lead.
New York threatened in the top of the ninth, getting the tying run to second base, but Rougned Odor popped out to third with two outs to end the game.
It's hard to believe, but the Yankees are very familiar with these heartbreaking losses. In fact, if you follow the Bombers on a day-to-day basis, you've probable lost count of how many times this team has plummeted to rock bottom with demoralizing defeats.
Aroldis Chapman gave up four runs in the ninth in Minnesota without recording an out. The closer was instrumental in another collapse in the Bronx when the Angels scored seven in the ninth three weeks later. New York squandered a late lead against the Mets and then again in Houston right before the All-Star break.
Just a few days ago, starting off this pivotal series in Boston, New York allowed a two-run lead to slip away with two outs in the ninth inning, losing in extra innings in historic fashion.
That's the worst part about this four-game set in Boston. With the ninth inning collapse on Thursday, and Sunday afternoon's fiasco, New York could've absolutely won this series. Battling back in the division, to start the second half of the year with five wins in seven games against the Red Sox would've been an incredible boost.
Instead, they lose three of four at Fenway and transition to yet another crucial series—heading to Tampa Bay for three at Tropicana Field—still looking for answers, hoping to bounce back once again.
In a nutshell, that's been the story of this season. Can this team overcome inconsistencies and the occasional incompetence to turn a corner? Or will every step in the right direction get promptly washed away as all parties involved revert to the tendencies that put this club in this position in the first place.
The Yankees are now 51-47. Their deficit in the division is now nine games. While that's not insurmountable—mathematically, New York has plenty of time to come back with 60-plus games remaining—it's harder now to justify buying at this week's Trade Deadline when other teams routinely expose the Yankees' flaws.
Acquiring one player for a slew of prospects won't fix this team's weaknesses. Aaron Judge's imminent return from his case of COVID will certainly help, but even his presence might not make enough of a difference.
Nonetheless, Yankees fans can count on at least one part of this team remaining consistent: Boone's unshakeable positivity in his postgame pressers.
"These guys have handled and dealt with adversity," Boone said. "We've dealt with it in this series and bounced back. I know we'll do it again."
Whether or not this club can crawl out of the hole they've dug for themselves through the first four months of the season, however, remains to be seen.
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