The Yankee offense made it sound like 2020.
Which in 2021 is particularly offensive — though these Yankees certainly cannot be accused of being offensive through the first weekend of the season.
There were 10,066 spectators at the Stadium on Easter Sunday — a full house with 20 percent-capacity rules — and if you closed your eyes it would have been easy to believe this was another game played like 2020 before no fans. Such was the feeble effort of the Yankee lineup. Such was the silencing effect of one fruitless at-bat after another.
“We didn’t muster a lot,” Aaron Boone said.
In losing the rubber game of this series 3-1 to the Blue Jays, the Yankees offered a tale of two inadequacies. Through the first six innings they struck out just once, but went 1-for-10 with men on base and hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Yanks then went nine up, nine down with five whiffs over the last three innings.
Thus, though holding what was expected to be a ferocious Toronto lineup to just three runs in each game, the Yanks lost two of three to open 2021 because their own expected ferocious lineup has come into April more like lambs than lions. They lost two of three to a Toronto team playing without its key offseason acquisition, George Springer, who was out with an oblique injury. And they lost two of three with little offense though Toronto used replacement starters Saturday (Ross Stripling) and Sunday (T.J. Zeuch) with Robbie Ray and Nate Pearson injured.
“We had a little bit of a cold weekend,” Boone said.
If this was just a “little bit” of a cold weekend no Yankee fan should want to see a deep freeze. Even in winning Saturday with five runs, the Yanks did not strike the ball particularly well.
This provided three more games of evidence that when the Yanks do not get the ball over a fence they will have difficulty generating runs. Gary Sanchez hit two homers to produce three runs. The Yanks’ other five runs on the weekend came on RBI infield singles by DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, a two-run bloop single by Jay Bruce and a Brett Gardner groundout.
A couple of timely hits and the Yanks actually could have swept this series. Instead, they were 4-for-24 (.167) with no extra-base hits in the three games with runners in scoring position and 10-for-47 (.213) with men on base.
The culprits were many. One, Giancarlo Stanton, was given Sunday off because, Boone said, he did not want the oft-injured DH playing five straight days early in the season. But as big a problem of all were the Aarons — Judge and Hicks — at Nos. 2 and 3 in the lineup. They were 0-for-8 Sunday and 4-for-26 in the series. Judge hit into another double play with runners in scoring position. But he also scorched a liner 114.6 mph right at second baseman Marcus Semien in his first at-bat.
Hicks had a weekend of one flaccid at-bat after another. He had one hit in 12 at-bats and that was a ground single off the glove of a diving Semien.
Boone likes the switch-hitting Hicks in the three hole for his on-base skills and to offer the rare lefty diversity high in the lineup. But while walks are valuable, the third-place batter has to be able to hit at a high level as well and Hicks’ batting average has gone from .266 to .248 to .235 to .225 the past four years. He is 1-for-12 this season.
When asked if he would consider moving Hicks out of the three hole, Boone said, “I’m always willing to mix things up.” But he added, “Over the long haul, Aaron Hicks is going to be all right.”
Boone felt that way about the entirety of the lineup, citing the “good track records” up and down the order and a refusal to overreact to one series. Clint Frazier offered, “it is just a matter of time with the lineup we have. … It’s going to click. No need to hit the panic button.”
Yep, it was just one series — the first ever to welcome fans back after a pandemic season. The Yanks doused the enthusiasm of the return with one quiet at-bat after another. The silence it produced at the Stadium was a loud indicator of a lost weekend.