Chase Headley knew right away, but he had to pretend to circle the bases anyway.
He hesitated briefly when he saw his potential go-ahead home run down the right-field line in Sunday’s sixth inning hook barely in front of the foul pole, and he was as surprised as anyone when first-base umpire Alfonso Marquez emphatically signaled the ball fair.
The potential game-turning play was quickly overruled by a video review, yet another typical example of a blah ending to the first half for both Headley and the Yankees, who thudded into the All-Star break by dropping yet another series with a mostly listless 5-3 loss to the Brewers at the Stadium.
“I knew it was foul the whole time. It sucks when you’re running around the bases when you know it’s a foul ball,” said Headley, who proceeded to strike out as part of a 1-for-16 team-wide failure with runners in scoring position. “It sucks. It’s a bad feeling…It’s been a rough three weeks for us.
Tanaka reverts to struggling self as Yankees lose 5-3 to Brewers
“We have to find a way to win games. What we’re doing right now isn’t working. We haven’t been very good lately.”
The Yanks are sending five players to the All-Star festivities in Miami beginning on Monday, which says plenty about the excitement they unexpectedly generated early this season.
Now comes the tricky part for GM Brian Cashman — as the Yanks slipped to 7-18 in their last 25 games and 0-7-1 in their last eight series since a sweep of Baltimore from June 9-11 — before they’ll reconvene on Friday in Boston for a critical and likely telling four-game set.
At 45-41 overall, they are 3.5 games behind the division-leading Red Sox in the AL East but virtually tied with surging Tampa Bay for second place and atop the increasingly muddled wild-card picture.
Brian Cashman confirms Yankees will be buyers at trade deadline
One more time, should the Yanks proceed as buyers or sellers, or somewhere in-between, with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching?
The latter, smaller tweaks without sacrificing significant pieces of the long-term future, should be the way to go as long as they remain in playoff contention, if possible.
And that correctly still sounds like the front office’s intention as the four-day respite begins.
“I think that our interest would be (as) buyers. But I think that we’re going to be careful buyers,” Cashman said on the YES Network before the draggy loss negated the euphoria over Saturday’s victory on rookie Clint Frazier’s walk-off home run. “Obviously in the next three weeks Hal Steinbrenner, myself and our entire staff will be trying to do a better job of legitimately plugging holes, if possible.”
Pair of injured Yankees expected back after All-Star break
The holes — or at least the cracks, with a 24-32 record since a 21-9 start — have been plentiful for a while now, although DH Matt Holliday and injured All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro both should return to the lineup next weekend in Boston. Joe Girardi’s inexplicably battered bullpen actually has made it through two straight clean days in succession.
Still, the Yanks can’t afford too many similarly poor starts like this from Masahiro Tanaka, who was tagged for two early homers for a 4-0 hole after encouragingly working to a 1.29 ERA over his previous three outings, if they expect to contend the rest of the way.
“The big thing is we need to play better,” Girardi said. “You can’t worry so much about where you are. We have to go out and play better. We just haven’t done that lately…Basically, that was my message (to the team).”
Both Girardi and Judge believe the All-Star break arrived at a good time for the Yanks, although Judge and teammate Gary Sanchez will be among the headline attractions of Monday’s Home Run Derby in Miami, while Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and the injured Castro also will be in hand for the Midsummer Classic the following night.
Yanks send Jordan Montgomery to the minors to add bullpen help
“We’re not in first place, so it’s not good,” assessed Judge, one of three Yanks to strike out as the potential tying run against Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel in the ninth. “We saw some signs of what this team’s capable of, and we have to go out there and repeat that in the second half.”
Otherwise, it’s Cashman’s responsibility to obtain what’s needed to make that happen in the form of a potential first-base upgrade if Greg Bird doesn’t make it back soon or another bullpen arm or perhaps another starting pitcher.
“I think it’s possible,” Cashman replied when asked by Michael Kay if he believed his fading team still should be considered a contender. “We’ve got to find a way to get ourselves back to October, so we can try to make some noise. If we can get into October and we find our stride at the right time, you saw what we did in April and May, with everybody we had and that wasn’t with reinforcements, depending on what we wind up doing.
“So far I can tell you the sticker prices are pretty high, and I’d like to think our fan base would be happy that we’re saying no to a lot of things that are currently being presented to us. But you keep working through it.”
With or without immediate reinforcements, the work continues — and the results need to be better than they’ve been for too many weeks — on Friday night in Boston.
It certainly would help if no more potential homers hook to the wrong side of the foul pole.
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