Yankees let one slip away in Bronx


NEW YORK -- The close wins are great. Without them, this Yankees season already would be seen as a failure.

But there is payback. There is danger.

There are games like Tuesday's, when a close game that could have been another encouraging win got away from the Yankees and turned instead into a missed-opportunity 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Detroit Tigers.

We'll never know if the Yankees would have held on to beat David Price and the Tigers if they'd had a couple of recent blowouts and thus a more-rested bullpen, but we do know what happened when they didn't.

Joe Girardi pushed Hiroki Kuroda through the seventh inning, even though he decided by the end of the inning that his 39-year-old starter had "run out of gas." By inning's end, Girardi had avoided going to his bullpen but watched Kuroda surrender what remained of a 3-1 lead over Price.

"The crispness wasn't there like it was for the first six innings," Yankees catcher Brian McCann said.

Girardi had a nine-man bullpen Tuesday, so it wasn't a matter of numbers. But he didn't have closer David Robertson or middle reliever Adam Warren because of their recent workloads. And he didn't have lefty Matt Thornton because the Yankees allowed him to go to the Washington Nationals on a waiver claim.

Perhaps if Thornton were still a Yankee, he would have been facing left-handed hitter Alex Avila with two on and two out in the seventh and the Yankees holding a 3-2 lead. Perhaps he would have retired Avila and the game never would have gotten to the 12th inning, when Avila hit a game-winning home run off Matt Daley.

It wasn't Thornton facing Avila. It was a tired Kuroda, who surrendered the game-tying single.

Girardi wouldn't say whether the unavailable relievers played into his decision, only admitting that he thought Kuroda was done after the seventh.

"That's why we went to [Dellin] Betances [in the eighth]," the Yankees manager said.

Betances was brilliant, as usual, but the Yankees have ridden him hard, too. This is Betances' first full season in the big leagues, and he already has 50 appearances and 67 2/3 innings, the most for any major league relief pitcher this season.

You wonder if Betances can hold up for the almost two months that remain in the season. You also know that if he can't, the Yankees can't, because they don't score many runs and thus keep playing all these close games.

Tuesday was their 16th consecutive game decided by one or two runs, the longest streak in franchise history (and the longest by any big league team since the 1975 Baltimore Orioles also went 16 straight).

The close games are understandable against the Cy Young winners the Tigers are sending out there night after night. You're not likely to get a blowout win when it's Max Scherzer or Price on the mound.

But the Yankees haven't managed blowout wins against anyone of late -- and hardly at all this season.

You can't say for certain that all those close games led directly to Tuesday's loss, but you can wonder whether the Yankees will hold up over the games that remain.