BALTIMORE — The Yankees are 5¹/₂ games out of first place with 21 left, so it is very difficult to avoid the math.
“We are all aware it is Sept. 5 and the season is coming to an end pretty soon,” Clint Frazier said following a dreadful 6-1 loss to the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards where his homer in eighth accounted for the Yankees’ only run on a night Gerrit Cole pitched.
“Obviously we know we are behind [the first-place Rays], but we are still competing with the others that are right behind us or tied with us right now.’’
Frazier said the best route for the struggling team to do is remain in the here and now.
“It’s tough, but we have a lot of guys capable of doing a lot of good things between now and then and we have good times ahead of us,’’ Frazier said.
Two doubleheaders in six days bookended three intense games with the Rays and a 10-inning loss to the Mets, putting a strain on the Yankees’ bullpen that led to Clarke Schmidt’s big league debut as a reliever Friday night against the Orioles.
In 27 minor league games, the Yankees’ first-round pick in the 2017 draft made 25 starts. The righty worked one game out of the bullpen last year for Single-A Tampa and the other relief appearance was in 2018 for the Rookie League Gulf Coast Yankees.
Yet, the reason Schmidt was elevated from the Yankees’ alternate training site in Scranton for Friday night’s twin bill at Camden Yards was because Aaron Boone’s pen was likely going to be missing big names for the second game due to workload constraints.
Sure enough, Boone used Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green in a nine-inning 6-5 win in the first game. Adam Ottavino wasn’t available because he pitched Wednesday and Thursday. Britton and Chapman pitched Thursday and in the first game Friday, so they weren’t going to be used. Nick Nelson provided two innings on Wednesday. Green had worked Wednesday and Thursday and Boone wanted to stay away from him Friday, but called for him in the ninth to protect a one-run lead and Green posted his first save of the season.
“It was necessity,’’ Boone said of going straight from starter Deivi Garcia to Schmidt in fifth inning. “We were kind of down [with] everyone. Going in it was going Deivi to Clarke and see if we could get through it. As a starting pitcher that is a tough first big league assignment.’’
Asked prior to Saturday night’s loss to the Orioles where would Schmidt be used in the future, Boone put the bullpen and rotation in play.
“Just try to get him spots where he can impact us. We feel like he can be impactful in a multi-inning length role right now and there could be a start out there at some point,’’ Boone said of Schmidt, who threw 32 pitches and two innings in which he gave up two runs, three hits and allowed the two runners he inherited from Garcia to score in a 6-3 loss. “But right now it is getting him acclimated. Feel like he has a chance in that multi-inning role to play a big role for us down the stretch.’’
Garcia was summoned from the alternate site to be the Yankees’ “29th’’ man for Friday’s doubleheader. But instead of returning to Scranton, the right-hander was added to the three-man taxi squad and remains with the club.
“We go to Buffalo to play the Blue Jays and he will pitch that third day [Wednesday],’’ Boone said of Garcia, who has made his first two big league starts this season and is looking for his first victory.
Garcia allowed four runs and five hits in 4 ²/₃ innings Friday night in the Yankees’ victory in the first game.
Pairing Kyle Higashioka with Cole on Saturday night against the Orioles wasn’t part of a plan to move away from Gary Sanchez after Cole’s last two starts were not good when compared to the previous six which were outstanding.
“With the lefty going and DJ [LeMahieu] down, today it was an opportunity to get them both in,’’ said Boone, who used Sanchez as the DH against Orioles starter Keegan Akin. “With the day game [Sunday], I want Gary to catch [Sunday]. If I DH him [Saturday], I can catch him Sunday.’’
Boone said that Higashioka — a better defensive catcher — and Cole continue to build a relationship, but eventually Cole was going to work with somebody besides Sanchez like he did in the first eight starts of the season.
“It is going to happen at some point and wanting to get Gary in there in a day game after a night game,’’ Boone said.
The news coming from Boone about Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton continues to be delivered in positive tones, but there hasn’t been any talk about a date they will be ready to rejoin a lineup that needs their power.
“Judge has had a couple of good days and started to ramp up a little. I think Monday starts the real progression, a lot of baseball activities and more aggressive with the running,’’ Boone said of Judge, who has played one game since Aug. 11 because of a right calf strain.
As for Stanton, who hasn’t played since Aug. 8 because of a left hamstring issue, Boone said he continues to do baseball activities.
“He is up to 80 percent running and he is hitting off the high-velocity machines and throwing so he is possibly a little ahead of Judge,’’ Boone said.
Miguel Andujar’s first two days back from the alternate site included moving around. He was a pinch-runner in the first game Friday night against the Orioles, started at third base in the night cap and was the Yankees’ left fielder Saturday night.
It was Andujar’s sixth start in left field which is two more than he has made at third base and he went 0-for-3.
Miguel Yajure pitched the final two innings Saturday night and was sent to the alternate site in Scranton following the loss.
When Jonathan Holder entered the first game of Friday night’s doubleheader against the Orioles, he was put in the ninth spot in the order. So when Aaron Hicks made the final out of the eighth, Holder became the automatic runner on second to start the ninth. He scored the go-ahead run and was the winning pitcher.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Holder is the first Yankee to score a run — game-winning or otherwise — and earn the win in relief in the same game since Sparky Lyle, who tossed 3.0 scoreless innings and scored a run in the top of the 10th inning to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead on Aug. 20, 1972 at Texas in a 2-0 Yankees win.