Juan Soto’s void looms large in Yankees’ second straight defeat to Dodgers

A young fan holds a poster saying he is at Yankees game only to see Juan Soto, Yankee Stadium, June 8, 2024.
Michael Bennington
Sunday June 9, 2024

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The New York Yankees continued to struggle without Juan Soto, losing their second consecutive game and their third series of the season to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Juan Soto, sidelined with forearm inflammation, has left a noticeable gap in the Yankees’ lineup, contributing to their recent lackluster offensive showings.

Before a sellout crowd of 48,274, the Yankees missed early scoring opportunities in what began as a competitive game. The situation worsened in the eighth inning when the Dodgers extended their 4-2 lead. Tommy Kahnle issued two walks, and a fielding error by Gleyber Torres loaded the bases for Teoscar Hernandez, who hit his second home run of the night, a grand slam, increasing the Dodgers’ lead to 8-2.

Juan Soto Takes Seat on Bench During Yankees-Dodgers Showdown on Friday, June 7, 2024
Talkin Yanks

Throughout the game, the Yankees’ offense faltered, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 men on base. Nestor Cortes, who has been reliable at Yankee Stadium this season, allowed two home runs and four runs in 5 1/3 innings, tying his season high.

This defeat marks only the third series loss for the Yankees this season, but the absence of Juan Soto has been particularly impactful. The team aims to recover and boost their offensive output while awaiting the return of their star slugger.

The New York Yankees’ woes persisted without Juan Soto, who was seen fidgeting around the dugout and playfully distracting Gerrit Cole during an in-game interview. The team has now dropped two straight games since Juan Soto’s diagnosis of left forearm inflammation, including a decisive 11-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night.

The Yankees (45-21) endured their most lopsided defeat of the season, with the Dodgers (41-25) capitalizing on two home runs from Teoscar Hernandez, one of which was a grand slam off Tommy Kahnle. As the game slipped away, the sellout crowd of 48,374, except for numerous Dodgers fans, began to file out.

Gleyber Torres faced boos after striking out in the eighth inning, having committed his second error in as many nights. Alex Verdugo, typically reliable in the outfield, misjudged a line drive to left, resulting in a run, and later took full responsibility for the misplay.

Reliever Dennis Santana, who has struggled this season, failed to cover first base on a grounder, leading to an inflated ERA. Infielder Oswaldo Cabrera was called in to pitch, announced almost apologetically, and looked uncharacteristically somber as he walked in two inherited runners.

Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo’s slump deepened, as he is now 1-for-29 in June, appearing completely out of sync at the plate.

Yankees squeezed in the absence of Juan Soto

Yankees’ Juan Soto jumps after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning on May 8, 2024, in New York.
NYY

The Yankees’ struggles were on full display in their lopsided defeat against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night. In the midst of a challenging game, captain Aaron Judge offered a silver lining by hitting two home runs, extending his MLB-leading total to 23. There was also a glimmer of hope concerning Juan Soto’s status, as he engaged in limited pregame activities with plans to resume some hitting by Sunday.

Manager Aaron Boone clarified earlier on Saturday that Juan Soto’s condition, while troublesome, wouldn’t worsen with continued play. Soto had been battling forearm soreness throughout the past week yet still earned AL Player of the Week honors. Boone mentioned that Juan Soto’s return to the lineup would likely occur in the series starting Monday at Kansas City, suggesting it would be a few days before he was back.

Judge voiced his support for allowing Juan Soto time to recover, preferring a short absence over risking a season-long injury. Boone echoed this sentiment, acknowledging that a stint on the injury list was a possibility for Juan Soto but expressing confidence that it wouldn’t be necessary, speaking as a leader of a team with the AL’s best record.

As the Yankees await Juan Soto’s return, questions have been raised about Anthony Rizzo’s performance. Boone hinted that Rizzo might benefit from a brief rest to help him overcome his current struggles at the plate.

Anthony Rizzo getting to grey zone again

Due to the Yankees' poor performance in 2024, some fans were upset that Anthony Rizzo was included in the lineup on May 29, 2024.
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rizzo’s struggles at the plate continued Saturday night, dropping his batting average to .224 with a .624 OPS after an 0-for-4 performance that included three groundouts and a foul out. Since May 14, Rizzo has been hitting just .146 (13-for-89) with two doubles, three RBIs, two walks, and no home runs.

Before the game, manager Aaron Boone was noncommittal when asked if it was time to give Rizzo a break, indicating he hadn’t made that decision “yet.” After the game, Boone acknowledged that Rizzo is likely “feeling it a little bit,” noting the veteran slugger’s efforts to make adjustments without seeing results. Boone emphasized that such slumps are part of a Major League season, even for accomplished hitters like Rizzo.

Alex Verdugo noted that Rizzo might be overthinking his approach but believed a turnaround was imminent.

The Yankees may soon face a difficult decision regarding Rizzo, a close friend of the team’s captain, with a $17 million club option for 2025 and a $6 million buyout. This decision could become particularly pressing as owner Hal Steinbrenner might seek funds to pursue a contract for Juan Soto during the offseason.

Ben Rice, recently promoted to Triple-A and performing well, could emerge as an alternative at first base, offering significant potential as a hitter. The return of Juan Soto, potentially as soon as Monday, might also reignite the Yankees’ strong season.

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