Three Strikes: Slumping Yankees drop fifth straight, but it’s too early to panic

Observations, thoughts and musings from a Saturday in baseball.

The Yankees have now lost five straight games, with a 5–2 loss Saturday afternoon to the A’s being latest. Panic! Okay, not quite—it’s hard to panic at 38–28, and all those games were winnable. But for a team that’s had it easy all year, it will be interesting to see how it responds. CC Sabathia, who has been New York’s most consistent pitcher this season, is on the DL. Masahiro Tanaka suffered his seventh loss of the season on Saturday, lasting just four innings and giving up five runs and three homers (though he did have 10 strikeouts).

The good news for the Yankees? They only have one more West Coast swing the rest of the way, and that’s just a four game series with Seattle. Aaron Judge is still hitting and Gary Sanchez is heating up. They’ve gotten remarkable performances from Aaron Hicks, who is hitting .306/.413/.556 and might steal the centerfield job away from an injured Jacoby Ellsbury. Starlin Castro is having the his best year (.328/.366/.519) of his career and Luis Severino has been fantastic in the rotation. What has gotten them to first place hasn’t changed suddenly in these last five games. But Boston, which entered Saturday one game outside of first, is creeping up. The Yankees have to figure out Tanaka’s struggles, and they are still a young team.

Is decline inevitable for a team that nobody thought would even sniff the playoffs? Perhaps. But let’s give it to at least the All-Star break. From here, the Yankees are back home against the Angels and Rangers, before hitting the road against the White Sox and Houston. Before Yankees fans panic, let’s see where they stand after that Houston series.

The Brewers ended up losing in 11 innings to the Padres, but give credit to Orlando Arcia for putting on a show. The 22-year-old infielder raced around the park, and really, he could have jogged home:

This is Arcia’s first full season with the Brewers. He’s batting .253/.297/.357 and is a nice piece for Milwaukee’s future. The Brewers are, surprisingly, 37–33, good for first in the NL Central. They’re getting really good seasons from Manny Pina and Travis Shaw, and they’re getting the power from Eric Thames, who knocked his 20th home run of the season in Saturday’s loss. Arcia is somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of production. But for a young player on a good young team, plays like this will keep him around for a long time.

Say this for Yasiel Puig—he knows how to put on a show. Just four days after flipping the bird against Cleveland, the 26-year-old outfielder hit two home runs in a 10–2 win over the Reds.

The Dodgers are now 17 games over .500 and Puig is batting .247/.319/.445 with 12 home runs and 101 total bases.

It’s easy for Puig’s middle finger antics to get a little lost on a team with a rookie sensation in Cody Bellinger (who went 3-for-5 Saturday with another homer and is batting .262/.337/.634 on the season with 19 homers, and should be getting much more attention than he is), a stellar player in Corey Seager, a dynamite bullpen and the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw.

But say this for Puig, too. He is not the player that burst onto the scene in 2013, when he hit .319/.534/.925 with 19 home runs in 104 games. He hasn’t matched that home run total, he hasn’t hit over .300 and his OPS has declined every year since. So Puig can flip the bird to random fans in Cleveland, generate a potential suspension and the Dodgers’ ire. But he’s also a somewhat replaceable cog on a powerhouse team, outplayed by a rookie and four other players. At some point, maybe the Dodgers just say they’ve had enough.

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