Powered by a three-homer effort from star slugger Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees on Wednesday were able to halt their losing streak at nine games with a sorely needed 9-1 win over the Nationals in the Bronx.
The losing streak had been the Yankees' longest since 1982. Had it reached 10 games with a loss on Wednesday, then it would've been their longest skid since 1913.
Playing the heroes were Judge – it was the first three-homer game of his eight-year MLB career – and starter Luis Severino. Judge, the reigning American League MVP, has been outstanding when healthy in 2023, but a fluke toe injury cost him a large chunk of the season and exposed the supporting cast around him as inadequate for a team with contending aspirations. In this one, though, Judge enjoyed a vintage night, as he homered twice in the first two innings for the first time in his career. His second blast of the night was a grand slam that traveled 437 feet and pushed the Yankee lead to 6-0:
Judge's third homer of the night came in the seventh and gave him six RBI for the game. He also became the first Yankee since Alex Rodriguez in 2005 to hit three home runs, one of which was a grand slam, in the same game. He's the first Yankee to have three homers of any kind in a game since teammate Anthony Rizzo last year. Following his big night, Judge for the season is now slashing .279/.406/.645 with 27 home runs in 72 games. In other words, he's again producing at an MVP level on a rate basis, but that aforementioned injury will prevent him from challenging Shohei Ohtani for top individual honors in the AL this season.
As for Severino, he worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts, two walks, and only one hit allowed. That's a welcome change of fortunes for Severino, who entered his Wednesday night start with a grisly 7.98 ERA for the season and had allowed 26 runs over his last 19 innings. Despite those recent trends, Severino was able to author his first quality start since July 17 and his first scoreless outing since June 24.
The win nudges the Yankees up to 61-65 for the season. They remain in last place in the AL East, and they're also 9 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot in the AL. Coming into Wednesday, SportsLine gave them less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs.
Given the lofty payroll and chronically high expectations in the Bronx, the failures of 2023 have put the pressure on manager Aaron Boone and long-time general manager Brian Cashman. Speaking of Cashman, he was asked about the current Yankee state of affairs on Wednesday afternoon before the blowout win, and his assessments were candid. Via SNY, Cashman said:
"It's been a disaster, this season. It's definitely a shock. Certainly, I don't think anybody on our side of the fence, from our player group, from our coaches, our manager, or even outside the organization, would've predicted this."
While certain Yankee fans would probably dispute that they didn't see at least some of this coming, the "disaster" part is a fitting characterization. On one level, it's jarring that a team that won 99 games last season and prevailed in baseball's toughest division would backslide this far, this quickly. On other levels, though, the current Yankee straits have been cultivated across multiple years,.
Sure, there's still time to reverse course (Cashman himself noted the Yankees haven't been officially eliminated yet), but the reality is that this team coming into Wednesday hadn't won a game since Aug. 11 and had gone 12-27 since the Fourth of July. The long odds are noted above, and that translates to substantially higher odds that changes are made in the dugout and perhaps even the front office. Disaster indeed -- Judge's ongoing brilliance at the plate notwithstanding.