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'We Have to Play Better': Yankees Losing Streak Grows After Sweep in St. Louis

New York is winless since the trade deadline, playing sub-.500 baseball over the last two months.

ST. LOUIS — Throughout the first half of the season, as the Yankees constructed what felt like an insurmountable lead for the rest of their division, New York routinely produced comprehensive victories.

The starting pitching would set the tone, the bats would provide the run support and the bullpen would shut the door. 

Mix that with improvements on the base paths and on the defensive side of the ball and it's no wonder why this club began the year with a historic run. 

Over the last few weeks, however, New York has reverted to some of the tendencies that doomed this club a season ago, the inconsistencies and inability play complementary baseball that's paved the way to a season-long five-game losing streak.

Take this three-game series in St. Louis for instance. The Yankees lost 4-3 on Friday in a game where their closer—who has been practically unhittable all year—blew a lead in the eighth inning. Clay Holmes gave up a game-winning hit to shortstop Paul DeJong, a player with a .146 batting average that had been in Triple-A for much of the season.

The following night, New York's pitching staff gave them a chance to win. After five innings of one-run ball from Domingo Germán, the 'pen was practically perfect. And yet, the offense was held to two hits in a 1-0 loss. New York was simply unable to break through against ex-Yankees Jordan Montgomery (who earned the win) and Giovanny Gallegos (who earned the save). 

That set the stage for Game 3 of the series on Sunday afternoon, the highly-anticipated debut of right-hander Frankie Montas who was acquired in a blockbuster deal ahead of the trade deadline. 

Sure, New York showed some life on offense, scoring nine runs on 16 hits, but Montas was disappointing and the bullpen kept the game out of reach. The Yankees lost 12-9, bringing their record on the season to 70-39.

"Just not quite playing as well," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after Sunday's loss. "We're losing some of these close games. We've got to find a way to get all synced up. I still think we've caught the ball for the most part really well, but it's just syncing up offensively, defensively and those games that are hanging in the balance that, frankly have still been there throughout this, we've got to find a way to punch through and we absolutely will."

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The Yankees are a confident bunch, a team that has faith in this group to get back on the right path. They also understand that they haven't been playing their best baseball recently.

"We need to play better, quite frankly," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "[St. Louis] did a good job, but at the end of the day, we still feel very good about our team. It's a little slide right now, we need to get back on track and continue playing hard. I feel like we did that throughout the game. And at the end of the day, we just didn't win the game."

New York recognizes what's holding them back at the moment as well. 

"When we get a good pitching game, we don't hit and vice versa," infielder DJ LeMahieu added. "These last five games, we've been trying to grind it like that."

One five-game losing streak doesn't mean it's time to smash the panic button. New York is missing a few key pieces due to injury right now—like Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo and Luis Severino—and they're playing against some talented competition. The new faces that were acquired at the deadline need some time to adjust. Besides, every team goes through their own ups and downs each year, no matter how good they are. Even the 1998 Yankees stumbled in August (going 12-16 leading into early September) near the end of their 114-win season and en route to a World Series title. 

This Yankees team is 0-5 since the trade deadline and 21-23 since a nine-game winning streak in June, though. They still hold a 9.5-game lead in the AL East entering play on Monday, but this stretch is more than just a quick losing streak.

Before asking any other big-picture questions, New York will focus to a surging Mariners team, a club that took two-of-three from the Yankees in the Bronx one week ago. From there, the Yankees' tough schedule continues. New York will travel to face the Red Sox in Boston before hosting the Rays, Blue Jays and Mets in their upcoming homestand. 

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