Scuffling Yankees hear boos as Reds sweep three-game set

A game that started late ended early.

There was the anthem standoff between pitchers on both teams that delayed the first pitch, neither side wanting to return to the dugout (the Reds the winners); there was a challenge one batter into the game concerning whether Anthony Volpe had positioned himself on the grass (he hadn’t); there was the third-inning break in play because Austin Wells was forced to switch mitts.

By the time the game actually got going, it was just about over.

Yankees starting pitcher Marcus Stroman #0 reacts on the mound after giving up a three-run homer. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Marcus Stroman allowed three home runs by the fifth inning, which these days is enough of a hole that a thin Yankees offense gets buried.

Frankie Montas, of all people, and three relievers kept the Yankees’ offense asleep until it awoke too late, helping the Reds finish off a sweep in putting down Aaron Boone’s crew, 8-4, in front of 43,154 exasperated fans in The Bronx.

The Yankees (54-35) celebrated the Fourth of July by suffering their first sweep of at least three games on an afternoon they heard some boos.

They have lost 13 of 17 and haven’t won a series in three weeks, since taking three of four in Kansas City from June 10-13.

The list of problems is growing longer, but it begins with an offense that is in search of a leadoff hitter, a cleanup hitter and reliable bats 5-through-9.

In other words, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge need help.

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) gets tagged out at first base by Cincinnati Reds Spencer Steer (7) when he grounded to third base during the fifth inning. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Boone shook up the order, bumping Ben Rice to leadoff and dropping Anthony Volpe to sixth, in a move that worked: Rice crushed his first major league home run in the fifth inning.

But that blast, Austin Wells’ solo shot three batters earlier, and Soto’s two-run dinger in the seventh represented the entirety of the Yankees’ offensive output, which was not enough.

They were no-hit by Montas, an oft-injured Yankee for a season and a half, until Alex Verdugo’s two-out double in the fourth. Against a Reds (42-45) club that entered the series in fourth in the NL Central, the Yankees scored 10 total runs in three losses.

Reds starting pitcher Frankie Montas #47 throws a pitch during the 3rd inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

On Thursday, they struggled to generate opportunities and wasted one when they got it.

Verdugo led off the bottom of the sixth with his second double of the afternoon and moved to third on a flyout from Gleyber Torres.

With one out, Volpe did well to put the ball in play, but Elly De La Cruz fielded his soft ground ball and threw home, the contact play again costing the Yankees as Verdugo was thrown out.

It is not just the offense that has helped sink the team. The Yankees have gone nine straight games without a starting pitcher completing the sixth inning, Stroman continuing the streak by taking down just five innings in which he allowed five runs, all scored via homers.

First it was Nick Martini who jumped on a 2-1 cutter in the second inning.

Next it was Jonathan India who hammered a down-the-middle sinker for a long homer into the left-field seats in the third.

Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz (44) safe stealing second base and advancing to third base as New York Yankees second base Gleyber Torres (25) struggles to catch the throw. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Finally it was Spencer Steer who turned around a cutter and deposited it into the short porch in right for a three-run shot in the fifth inning that made it 5-0.

In his past four starts, Stroman’s ERA has risen from 2.82 to 3.58. He has declined, as have his rotation mates, which has begun infecting the bullpen.

Asked for another heavy day of work, the bullpen buckled.

Reds pitchers Graham Ashcraft and Carson Spiers along with a pair of Yankees pitchers Cody Poteet and Ian Hamilton, were locked in a national anthem standoff before the start of the game. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post
An umpire speaks with Yankees pitchers Cody Poteet and Ian Hamilton as they and Reds pitchers Graham Ashcraft and Carson Spiers, were locked in a national anthem standoff. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Reds ran away in the top of the seventh, when India and De La Cruz singled against Tim Hill before Jake Cousins entered and walked Steer to load the bases.

Jake Fraley cleared the bases with a triple to the wall in right-center to make it 8-2, essentially ending the game even if Soto blasted a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning.

A day dedicated to booms gave way to significant boos in the ninth inning, when center fielder Trent Grisham allowed Jeimer Candelario to take second base on a routine single because he did not charge a soft single and then booted the many-hopper. 

After their bats and arms failed them, the Yankees’ effort did, too.

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