The Yankees are, impressively and unexpectedly, still relevant. Despite trading away or easing into retirement much of their high-priced veteran talent, New York has hung around. Here we are on Sept. 7, there’s a crispness to the air, the kids are heading back to school—and the Yankees are 4.5 games out of first, the closest they’ve been since April.
The Yankees took a wild one in the Bronx last night, topping the Blue Jays 7-6 in a game that saw 10 runs and three lead changes in the final three innings. Joe Girardi, freed from the tyranny of having three elite relievers to choose from (despite the trades of Chapman and Miller, the Yankees somehow have MLB’s best bullpen ERA since the trade deadline), brought on Delin Betances with a three-run lead. Betances, throwing a season-high 40 pitches and making his third appearance in as many days, promptly allowed two runs and loaded the bases.
The Yankees went to Blake Parker, a 31-year-old journeyman with one previous career save to his name. Parker struck out Kevin Pillar, and with the tying and go-ahead runs on base, Parker got Justin Smoak to fly out to deep left-center.
Let’s see again just how close that ball was to squirting out:
Brett Gardner is one of the few old men left on this team—just one of three players who were here the last time the Yankees won a playoff series, in 2012. He’s surrounded by kids. During the final pitching change, 24-year-old Aaron Judge wandered over to talk to Gardner, and remarked on how exciting the game was. Gardner’s reply: “It’d be a lot more exciting if it were 7-4 instead of 7-6.”
It was a tough loss for Toronto, who, with Boston’s win, slid back into a tie for the AL East lead. New York is now 4.5 game back of the two, and just 3.5 out of the second wild-card spot. They’ve got a few teams between them and an unlikely postseason berth, and no starting pitching to do anything in the playoffs even if they manage to make it, but it’s September and there’s meaningful baseball being played in the Bronx. At the very least, this feels like a dress rehearsal for the next few years.