Schmidt bloops in sixth, bats go cold as Yankees suffer first series loss

Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees lost 5-1 to the Blue Jays to end a poor homestand and suffer their first series loss. A day after Aaron Boone boasted the “beat up” credentials of his team, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. once again knocked them out.

A great start from Clarke Schmidt fizzled out in the sixth inning and was ruined by Guerrero’s home run. Another poor performance from the Yankees offense only aided their defeat at Yankee Stadium. This marked the seventh game where the Yankees were limited to three or fewer runs.

“We’ve got to score more than we have here lately,” said Boone. “Part of it is that we’re hurt. We must discover solutions. We’re currently having trouble rolling out a crooked number.

Clarke Schmidt began strong but lost steam

In his strongest start of 2023, Schmidt breezed through a challenging Blue Jays lineup on Sunday. Before faltering in the sixth, Schmidt retired the first 13 batters he faced and had already recorded a career-high eight strikeouts. Anthony Volpe made his first career mistake, failing to cover shortstop on a George Springer grounder with one out in the inning.

Early innings saw the 27-year-old righty pitching flawlessly, but Matt Chapman’s double in the fifth inning ended that. Then, in the sixth inning, Guerrero Jr. hit his second home run of the series, scoring two runs, after Yankees shortstop Volpe’s first career error failed to prevent it. That was quickly followed by Daulton Varsho’s shot, which made it a 5-1, giving away Toronto both the game and the series.

“That was a mistake breaking ball over the heart of the plate,’’ Schmidt said of the pitch hit out by Guerrero. “He does a really good job with mistakes and hitting breaking balls.”

Boone agreed, “Obviously, that cost us.”

Daulton Varsho, a left-handed hitter, smashed a ball into the second tier in right field to make it 3-0 and terminate Schmidt’s day after three unearned runs.

Even though Schmidt’s fifth start of the year was also his longest and most fruitful, his day ended there on an especially dismal note. The right-hander set a career-high with eight strikeouts against the Blue Jays on 76 pitches in 5.2 innings. He was one of three backup starters in the Yankees’ rotation because of injuries. Schmidt’s ERA dropped to 6.30 while giving up a season-low three hits, but the two long balls proved costly.

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt is at Yankee Stadium after his dismal pitching against the Angels on Apr 18, 2023.

After four terrible outings in which he failed to last further than four innings, Schmidt came into Sunday with an 8.79 ERA. However, he was flawless through the first 4 1/3 innings before Matt Chapman doubled down the first-base line with one out in the top of the fifth.

“It leaves a sour taste in your mouth,’’ Schmidt said.

Yankees bats go cold

Kevin Gausman of Toronto, who was among the top 10 Cy Young Award contenders in each of the previous two years, was unstoppable against the Yankee offense. He allowed just three hits while striking out 11 Yankees with his renowned splitter.

When things are difficult and we are churning out offensive plays, Boone remarked, “We’ve got to keep pushing.”

Following Anthony Rizzo‘s home run in the ninth,  DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres singled before Oswaldo Cabrera popped out to end the drama. A looping liner was blasted off by LeMahieu to center field and it bounced past Kevin Kiermaier as he attempted to slide and retain it in front of his body, dribbling to the other side’s warning track. The game was scoreless through four innings until LeMahieu hit a leadoff double against the Blue Jays to begin the fifth. It was irrelevant.

Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Kyle Higashioka were the next three Yankees to bat, but Toronto right-hander Kevin Gausman got rid of them. Gausman pitched seven innings without allowing a run on.

A dejected Aaron Judge after a loss for the Yankees.

Offense worries persist

The inning highlighted the Yankees’ recent offensive problems. Yes, the Yankees are doing well right now in the standings. They are 13-9 and tied with the Blue Jays for third place in the American League East. It’s still too early in the season to be concerned about Tampa Bay’s six-game lead over the Yankees in the first place. This season, the Yankees have only lost one series.

However, the Yankees were only able to score three runs for the eighth time in the previous ten games. With 93 runs scored, they are ranked 19th overall. Their OPS is only.706, ranking 18th in MLB. The bats have not performed well.

“Ultimately,” Higashioka said, “did not have good at-bats.”

The Yankees lineup has been plagued by injuries and recent lackluster performances from its studs. Aaron Judge, who set a league-high 62 home runs the previous season, currently has six home runs and a .844 OPS. However, he has batted just .216 over his last 15 games and was hitless in four at-bats on Sunday.

Giancarlo Stanton, a feared slugger, won’t be back for six weeks due to a hamstring problem. After a blazing start, reserve outfielder Franchy Cordero has cooled. The Yankees’ Nos. 6 through 9 hitters had a miserable .564 OPS as a group entering Sunday, which was third-worst in the league. The cumulative batting average of the same hitters was.194, ranking 25th in MLB.

The lineup may not bounce back to the levels it reached in the first part of last season, even if the Yankees return to full health. Harrison Bader, a center field mainstay with a lifetime OPS+ of 97, might make a comeback from an oblique injury in a few weeks. Josh Donaldson, a third baseman, could need a month to recover from a hamstring problem, but he hasn’t been a reliable offensive contributor since 2021.

The Yankees gave top prospect Anthony Volpe a promotion to replace Kiner-Falefa, but despite his impressive appearance, Volpe is only hitting .188 and struck out in three of his four at-bats on Sunday. Over 58 at-bats, Hicks and IKF have a combined .373 OPS. Cabrera has moreover battled to a.556 OPS while offering crucial coverage at several defensive positions. LeMahieu (.861 OPS) and Anthony Rizzo (.977 OPS) have been productive as usual.

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