Once comfortable leaders in the AL East, the New York Yankees suddenly find themselves in a potentially disastrous tailspin.
Owners of a 10 1/2 -game cushion over Boston in the East as recently as Aug. 15, the Yankees find themselves just 3 1/2 games ahead after dropping nine of their last 15, including a humiliating 22-0 defeat in Tuesday’s series opener.
Starter Javier Vazquez was knocked out in the second inning as owner George Steinbrenner watched his high-priced first-place club endure its worst defeat ever.
New York had never lost by more than 18 runs, falling 24-6 at Cleveland on July 29, 1928, and 19-1 at home against Detroit on June 17, 1925. Previously, the Yankees’ biggest shutout loss was 15-0 at home against the Chicago White Sox on May 4, 1950.
While the Yankees have stumbled of late, the Red Sox rolled to their seventh straight win Tuesday, beating Anaheim 10-7 to again cut into New York’s lead.
“We can’t control Boston,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “If they continue to win every single game, they’re going to deserve anything they can accomplish. The only time we can control what they do is when we play them.”
Hernandez, who began the season on the disabled list after missing all of last year with a shoulder injury, has provided stability to an otherwise shaky rotation. He is 5-0 in nine starts since being activated from the DL on July 11, with the Yankees winning the first eight of those outings before last Wednesday’s 4-3 loss in Cleveland.
Hernandez gave up two runs and five hits over six solid innings, and was in line for his sixth straight win before the New York bullpen collapsed in the eighth.
The Cuban right-hander has been especially stingy at Yankee Stadium, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts.
Omar Vizquel tied an AL record with six of Cleveland’s 22 hits Tuesday.
The Indians, who moved back above .500, scored three runs in each of the first three innings, then added six more in the fifth. Every Indians batter had scored by the fifth and the top eight in the order all had RBIs.