NEW YORK — The sound production crew at Yankee Stadium is as professional as it gets. Its expertise is particularly noticeable when anticipating times the crowd seems anxious to deliver a full-throated Bronx cheer. As soon as the boos begin, the tunes tend to ratchet up to another level, drowning out the hate — and rattling a few eardrums.
But not even the sound folks could have been ready for when New York Yankees fans unleashed their first jeers of the night in the second inning of an ugly 8-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
Masataka Yoshida hit a roller through the left side with one out. As Rafael Devers rounded third to score and extend the Yankees’ deficit to 7-0, left fielder Billy McKinney bobbled the ball, losing it lowlight-reel style on the transfer.
The flub sent the packed crowd into an immediate roar of disapproval, which surely caught the attention of owner Hal Steinbrenner, who was in the house to witness the embarrassing moment.
Make it a 4-RBI night for Masataka Yoshida! pic.twitter.com/KFIocNfDKH
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 18, 2023
The defeat dropped the spiraling Yankees to 60-62 and seven games back in the race for the third American League Wild Card spot. The club, in last place in the AL East, has dropped six straight and they have lost seven of 12 games since standing still at the trade deadline.
Manager Aaron Boone tried to project perseverance, as has been his wont in the most difficult season of his six-year tenure.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,” he said, “but again, we get these questions all the time, you’ve got to keep moving forward. You’ve go to do all you can to not succumb to that, and do your best to come in and fix it every day. It doesn’t matter what happened tonight and yesterday. We’ve got to keep going. The season will swallow you up if you let it consume you. It’s not about reflecting right now.”
The Yankees would likely rather do anything other than reflect on what happened Friday.
Starting pitcher Jhony Brito got torched for six earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings. He put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole in the first inning, and in the second inning, he wasn’t helped by Gleyber Torres booting an easy grounder with one out. That set up four straight singles, three of which brought in a run apiece. The score was 7-1 until Aaron Judge hit a two-run shot in the eighth that just cleared the short porch in right field for his 23rd bomb of the season.
“We try to compete every time, but we fail,” second baseman Torres said. “So it’s really frustrating for us because we know we’ve got a really good team and we’re not doing the right thing right now.”
On Thursday, there was speculation on social media that the Yankees could be considering calling up two of their most highly regarded prospects when outfielder Everson Pereira and catcher Austin Wells weren’t in the lineup at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Friday was the first day of the season that prospects could be called up without fear of expiring their rookie eligibility, which requires 45 days in the majors (or 130 at-bats). But neither was in the Bronx on Friday.
“Those guys are obviously knocking on the door,” Boone said.
Could either of them help this season?
“It’s possible,” he said. “We’ll see.”
After the loss, the advanced statistics website Fangraphs projected the Yankees to have a 1.8% chance of making the playoffs. The Yankees might soon feel as if they have gotten to the point where it’s more advantageous to begin giving prospects who could help in 2024 a taste of the major leagues this season. Of course, they could wait until Sept. 1, when rosters expand to 28 players — one extra pitcher, one extra position player. But the “why wait?” argument holds merit, too.
Here are four moves the Yankees could make if they wanted to start playing the kids immediately.
Call up Pereira, cut Greg Allen
The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked Pereira as the Yankees’ No. 2 overall prospect and MLB’s No. 51 prospect in his most recent top-60 update. The 22-year-old has serious pop.
“He hits the ball really hard,” said catcher Ben Rortvedt, who played with Pereira at Triple A and in spring training. “Sometimes, it looks like he’s not on time, and then he’ll just foul balls off that you didn’t think he’d have a chance to. And the ball comes extremely hard off his bat.”
Pereira could be an option to play left field for the Yankees next season. He hit .308 with six homers and a .877 OPS in 32 games with Scranton entering Friday, though he was also in the midst of a 10-game slump (.200 BA).
Meanwhile, Allen didn’t play Friday and he hasn’t started a game since July 30 — his only start since returning from the injured list on July 23.
Law ranked Peraza as the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect going into this season, and many believed he was the front-runner to start at shortstop before Anthony Volpe won the job in spring training. He had just 64 plate appearances in the majors this season, hitting .173, but at Triple A, he hit .259 with 13 homers and a .810 OPS in 60 games. The Yankees could work Peraza into a rotation of second base and third base with the occasional spot at shortstop when Volpe needs an off day. Meanwhile, McKinney, who went 1-for-3 on Friday, entered the night on a .180 (7-for-39) skid and — much like Allen — doesn’t project to be part of next year’s Opening Day roster.
Beeter, 24, was Law’s 16th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system at the start of the season. He hasn’t been good since getting promoted to Triple A (6.31 ERA, 8 games, 7 starts), but this is about playing the kids, right, and he’s arguably their pitching prospect most ready to jump to the bigs? The Yankees will have to put Beeter on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft in the offseason. The Yankees could give him Severino’s spot in the rotation, and give him Brito’s spot on the active roster while designating righty Matt Bowman for assignment. Bowman hasn’t appeared in the majors this season or in the majors since 2019.
Call up Wells, cut a reliever
It might be a stretch to call up Wells right now, considering the value the Yankees place on catcher defense and how he had caught the Triple-A staff for just 15 games going into Friday. But like Beeter, Wells also must be added to the 40-man in the offseason, and the pop in the former first-round pick’s lefty bat seems tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. He hit a .729 OPS in his first 22 games at Triple A. Law ranked him as the team’s No. 8 prospect. The Yankees have various back-of-the-roster relief candidates who could be in the hot seat in this scenario.
(Top photo of Yankees starting pitcher Jhony Brito, who allowed six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Red Sox: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)