MINNEAPOLIS — Eleven days ago, Aaron Boone’s team had a commanding lead over the A’s in the chase for the top AL wild-card spot.
They would get to play the loser-go-home game in The Bronx where they are comfortable and had the delicious choice of starting J.A. Happ or Masahiro Tanaka.
Aaron Judge likely would be back from the disabled liset and Aroldis Chapman would return to the back end of a powerful bullpen.
It wasn’t first place in the AL East, but it wasn’t bad.
Now it is bad. And might get worse if the Yankees don’t find a way to escape the funk they are living in. After dropping a 3-1 decision to the Twins on Wednesday night in front of 24,134 at Target Field, the Yankees’ lead over the A’s is one game and the chance of the wild-card game being played in Oakland, Calif., is very real.
Following the Yankees’ ninth loss in 16 games — and second in three games to the terrible Twins — in which they didn’t get a hit off Jake Odorizzi until Greg Bird’s one-out RBI double in the eighth inning, Boone talked of the need to get better. That’s needed because the A’s are 26-11 since Aug. 1 after whipping the hapless Orioles, 10-0, in Baltimore on Wednesday.
So, how does a team get better 5 ½ months into a six-month season?
“We have the equipment in that room to be the club we expect to be. Baseball will punch you in the mouth every now and then,’’ Boone said. “We are clearly facing a little bit of adversity right now and we will be better for it. I expect us to come out Friday ready to turn the page.’’
Odorizzi, who exited after Bird’s double, was helped by his fielders several times with some highlight plays. Luck also was his running mate because the Yankees hit balls right at Twins gloves.
“Up and down the lineup I thought our intent was really good,’’ Boone said. “We just got to start getting results now. We have the people in that room to get it done and we will continue to work at it. We will come out of this adversity better for having gone through it.’’
The evening wasn’t a complete waste. Former ace Luis Severino turned in his best effort since July 1 by allowing one run, four hits and striking out five in 5 ²/₃ innings.
With Severino’s pitch count at 83, Boone decided to call for David Robertson with the Twins leading, 1-0, runners on second and third with two outs and Eddie Rosario at the plate.
Boone got a fight from Severino on the mound when he begged the manager to face one more batter. Of course, Severino lost the argument and Robertson retired Rosario on a ground out.
“I had 80 or something pitches. I asked to get one more hitter,’’ said Severino, who worked smoothly with catcher Gary Sanchez after last week’s nightmare in Oakland when the pair couldn’t get together on signs.
Robertson, who gave up three straight hits in the seventh that produced two runs and hiked the lead to 3-0, said he hadn’t been following the wild-card race but knew it was close. Robertson asked how many games remained, and when told it was 16 didn’t flinch.
“We got plenty of time,” he said. “Put some good innings together and good at-bats and pick up some wins.”
Boone is right about the need to get better, and when Judge and Chapman return they might provide a boost, though when they’ll be back isn’t known and there’s no guarantee they will be productive.
So, after 5 ½ months and 90 wins, it’s imperative to improve to avoid a coast-to-coast trip for one game against what is right now the hottest team in the game looking to take advantage of a slumping one.