At first, it looked like a brain cramp. Then, the Yankees called it a tactic that backfired.
Either way, Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s humbling bunt double play Saturday in the Yankees’ 8-1 loss to archrival Boston encapsulated their struggles. It was the perfect picture of their putrid performances.
“It was just tough,” Kiner-Falefa said. “We haven’t been able to execute, haven’t been able to get the big hit, just been sloppy baseball all around.”
Kiner-Falefa’s failed bunt was front and center, as the Yankees dropped to 60-63. It’s the first time they’ve been that far under .500 this late in a season since 1995.
Mired in an offensive funk, Kiner-Falefa tried to lay down a bunt with the Yankees already trailing 4-0 in the second inning.
It was curious, because Kiner-Falefa has been one of the few Yankees actually performing well lately.
He came in batting .288 with 20 RBIs since June 22. He had hit safely in seven of his past nine games, but not in this one.
Having immobile Giancarlo Stanton on first base made the move egregious. Stanton is a prime double-play candidate, and that’s what the Yankees got.
When Kiner-Falefa failed to get a good bunt down, Boston catcher Connor Wong made a quick move to snatch the weak attempt out of the air and threw to first to get Stanton.
The maddening play epitomized the Yankees’ lack of execution.
Kiner-Falefa said that with the third baseman playing back, he was trying to take advantage of Red Sox pitcher Kutter Crawford’s supposed fielding woes.
Anthony Volpe looked to be attempting the same in the third inning with Greg Allen on first. Neither at-bat worked as Volpe flew out.
“Just going off scouting report. [Crawford has] had throwing issues, so I was just trying to get the ball in his hands and maybe make him make a bad throw right there and just build something. And yeah, it kind of backfired,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Just going off of his previous issues, so I was just trying to expose that. Vople tried to take a shot with it too later. So yeah, that’s just been the case where there’s just a lack of execution.”
Crawford has two errors this season — both in a rainy game at Fenway Park on April 17.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone claimed he approved of the decision, if not the execution.
“Yeah, he was bunting for a hit there,” Boone said. “[The third baseman] is sitting back, we’re down, yeah, I think that’s a good play.
“The IKF bunt, that’s a good play. He’s bunting for a hit there. We’re down four runs and the third baseman is back. He didn’t get it down. It’s the right thought, it’s a good thought.”
With the Yankees having mustered just 15 runs in a season-worst seven game skid — and blanked twice in their past four — Kiner-Falefa said he was thinking more about the game plan than the offensive woes.
“Correct. Yeah, he’s had trouble throwing the ball in the past, so we’re just trying to get it in his hands and yeah, make something happen that way,” Kiner-Falefa said. “It’s not a lack of offense. It’s more of the game plan.”