Yankees Hit Rock Bottom Giving Up 10 Runs in Nightmare Sixth Inning in Loss to Blue Jays
It took 43 minutes.
The Yankees entered the bottom of the sixth inning against the Blue Jays, at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, with a four-run lead.
Riding a stretch where New York had lost 13 of its last 18 games, an early lead was exactly what the doctor ordered. Three home runs in the first four innings—including back-to-back solo shots from Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks in the top of the first—had the Yankees' dugout showing signs of life for the first time in weeks.
Then, it all unraveled.
The Blue Jays sent 13 men to the plate and against Chad Green and Adam Ottavino—two of New York's best high-leverage relievers—10 runs came in to score. Each right-hander threw 29 pitches in the frame.
"We need to play better," Yankees' manager Aaron Boone said after the 12-6 loss. "Anytime we get a lead through the middle innings, we'll take our chances at the back end [of our bullpen] so we've got to do better."
Green lasted just one third of an inning, issuing two walks and loading the bases with one out. On a slow chopper to first off the bat of Rowdy Tellez, Voit would make an error forcing Yankees' manager Aaron Boone to call to the bullpen.
"At the end of the day, that the leadoff walk came back to kill us," Green said. "In that situation, with what our offense just did, that can't happen. So, yeah, it's just a bad leadoff walk."
Much to Boone's chagrin, the next six Jays hitters after the pitching change would reach against Ottavino. After three run-scoring singles, and another pair of free passes, Toronto's catcher Danny Jansen—who entered play on Monday with a .148 batting average—clobbered a grand slam.
"It's the worst feeling in the world when you let your team down," Ottavino said. "We really wanted to win tonight. We've been grinding here as a unit. So, it hurts a lot but that's the nature of the game. You sign up for it, so try to put up behind me and behind us and keep going forward."
The 3-1 fastball from Ottavino left Jansen's bat at 107.6 mph, soaring 417 feet deep into the Buffalo night. The Yankees' reliever would retire the final two batters he faced to end the frame, but as catcher Kyle Higashioka put it, it was "a little too late."
"Not many things suck more than that when it happens, but you've got to try to figure something out to stop the bleeding," Higashioka said on the 10-run inning. "Unfortunately we didn't seem to do that until they cleared the bases."
After the game, Boone said he stuck with Ottavino, even after he struggled right out of the gates, because of necessity. Considering Jordan Montgomery hadn't given much length earlier in the game, going just 3 1/3 innings, Boone needed Ottavino to finish out the frame, otherwise it would've been a "position player situation" on the mound.
"We were just up against it," Boone said. "I didn't really want to even use [Luis] Cessa and have to end up using him for four outs and then would have even preferred staying away from Clarke [Schmidt] to get his length back tomorrow but ended up having to get him in there.
"Once we were short there with Monty, we knew we didn't have a lot of length guys today so it was gonna be our high-leverage guys to get us to where we needed to go."
Montgomery threw 84 pitches in his abbreviated outing, allowing two Blue Jays to score. He said his inability to execute, specifically on his changeup, was the catalyst for his high pitch count far earlier than he would've liked.
"I've just got to execute other pitches," Montgomery said. "But I kept choking it and trying to be too fine with it is what I think. Really just need to execute more. I battled when I had to. But I've got to get deeper."
For a team that prides itself on the strength of its bullpen, New York had to feel comfortable heading into the sixth with a four-run lead. Green and Ottavino combining for 10 runs allowed and only one swing and miss in the entire inning was something that left their teammates taken aback.
Ottavino referred to their inability to make the Jays whiff as "bizarre."
"Once we get a lead in the sixth, a four-run lead late in the game like that, we expect to win those games and in the past we have won those games," Green said. "For whatever reason we're not getting done right now."
A collapse like that doesn't happen very often. In fact, the last time the Yankees gave up 10 runs in an inning was in May of 2015 against the Texas Rangers.
The Yankees have now lost four games in a row—including dropping three straight to the Orioles over the weekend—and have lost 14 of their last 19. With less than 20 games remaining in the season now, time is running out for this slumping club to turn their season around and begin climbing back up in the playoff standings.
Boone's unwavering optimism held strong, saying that while it was "surprising" to see his most reliable reliever struggle mightily, the team overall hasn't lost any confidence.
"You're going to go through that in the course of the season, we're going through it a lot collectively right now," he explained. "We got to find a way to continue to lean on each other, pick each other up and trust that the work we're doing behind the scenes to make those subtle adjustments individually will start paying off for us."
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