Yankees Continue to Spiral Ahead of Playoffs With Roller-Coaster Loss to Marlins

Max Goodman

NEW YORK — An ejection. Umpire interference. Helmet slams and bat snaps. Errors galore and a costly botched rundown in extra innings.

Friday night's series opener between the Yankees and Marlins had just about everything. The result was New York's latest debilitating defeat, the club's fifth loss in its last six games, as the Yankees search for answers ahead of the postseason.

Clinching a playoff berth for the first time in 17 years, celebrating in the Bronx as they did when they won a World Series at the old Yankee Stadium in 2003, the Marlins outlasted the Bombers 4-3 in 10 innings.

"Just haven’t played clean enough baseball," Yankees' manager Aaron Boone said. "Obviously we’re going to have to do that if we’re going to reach our goal, we’ve got to play better and tighter. Keep working at it and start executing better."

READ: Yankees' Aaron Boone Gets Ejected Arguing Egregious Strike Three Call to Aaron Judge

Miami pushed the game's decisive run across on a go-ahead sacrifice fly off the bat of Jesus Aguilar with two men out in the 10th. It came just moments after New York failed to retire pinch-runner Monte Harrison in a rundown despite having him caught off third base.

Yankees' catcher Kyle Higashioka, after securing a feed from shortstop Gleyber Torres, scampered after Harrison toward the third base bag. His toss toward Gio Urshela, however, plunked Harrison squarely between the numbers on his back as he slid in safely.

It was New York's fourth error of the game and a costly one.

"Getting down here to the end of the 60 games, it’s tough to be making mental mistakes like that," right fielder Aaron Judge said. "Physical mistakes you can live with but it’s the mental mistakes that are tough."

The following half inning, DJ LeMahieu bounced into a game-ending double play—New York's fifth double play of the night—with the bases loaded.

Judge, stranded in the on-deck circle, was surprised that LeMahieu wasn't able to get the job done. That said, to Judge, the blame doesn't fall on New York's ever-consistent and reliable leadoff man.

"I liked our chances getting up there with the bases loaded and DJ coming up, he’s one of the best players in the game, one of the best clutch situation hitters I’ve ever been around," Judge said. "If we would’ve done a better job on certain things, we don’t get to that position. I think back to the rundown the inning before, the different opportunities where we had guys on base and weren’t able to capitalize."

If it wasn't for Judge, New York would've have even gotten to extras. 

After knocking Miami's starter Sandy Alcantara out of the game in the eighth—after the right-hander had thrown 7 1/3 spectacular innings with nine strikeouts—Judge blooped a two-out base hit to shallow right field to tie the game at three apiece.

An RBI double from outfielder Aaron Hicks in the third frame, one batter after a ringing double from Judge, accounted for the Yankees' other two runs on the night.

"It happens and the bottom line is we’ve got to play better," catcher Gary Sánchez said through the Yankees' interpreter about yet another disappointing performance. "We need to make sure we do the little things and it’s simple, we’ve got to play better."

One week ago Saturday, the Bombers won their 10th game in a row. In all facets of the game, New York looked like a juggernaut poised to do some serious damage in the postseason. Now, the Yankees have lost four of five and are in danger of slipping down to the eighth and final seed in the American League playoff picture if they don't turn it around in their final two games of the season over the weekend.

"It hasn’t been clean or pretty at times, but I think if there’s one thing we’ve seen on the outside of that previous stretch it’s that any given night, things can change," said Yankees' left-hander J.A. Happ, who was tabbed with a no decision on Friday night. "We know who we have in that locker room. We’re going to rest, come back tomorrow and hopefully put this one behind us and play a little better baseball. We know we can and again, it’s any given day so we feel like we can turn the page."

READ: How Gary Sánchez, Kyle Higashioka Are Handling a Division of Playing Time Heading into Postseason

The loss to Miami drops the Yankees' record to 32-26 on the season. Regardless of results this weekend, the Yankees will not be able to secure home field advantage for the opening round of the postseason.

Even with only a pair of games remaining on the schedule, and sloppy play looming large this last week, Boone believes his ball club can right the ship. In the skipper's eyes, if they can make a few adjustments, they can "beat and play with anyone" in October. 

"There’s plenty of time. We control everything. We go play really good baseball, we can be champions," Boone said. "We gotta play better clearly but that’s in our hands right now. We don’t need anyone’s help, we just have to go out and do what I know we’re capable of doing."

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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