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Yankees winning losable games again just in the nick of time

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Let’s winnow down Saturday’s ballgame at Yankee Stadium to a single word:

Losable.

When you commit three errors, when you go 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, when your guy hits the ball the hardest of anyone and it’s an out, when their guy drives in a run with a blooper … stir, add bourbon and go drown your socially distanced sorrows.

The Yankees, however, suddenly don’t look like that miserable bunch succumbing to losable contests. As their 10-inning, 2-1 victory over the Orioles here exemplified, they have regained considerable mojo. They can take another giant leap forward Sunday with a series sweep.

“This game is like riding a surfing wave,” said Luke Voit, who delivered a leadoff, walk-off sacrifice fly to end the game and give the Yankees their fourth straight win. “There’s going to be ups and downs of it. Eventually stuff will go your way.

“It’s hard sometimes. You can be so negative on yourself. … You’ve got to be positive and remember to have fun.”

I’m not sure how much fun the Yankees had during this one outside of watching their pitchers excel, particularly Jordan Montgomery (5 ²/₃ innings, one unearned run) bouncing back in a big way from two poor starts and Aroldis Chapman registering a third straight strong outing despite, well, as Aaron Boone put it, “Mother Nature calls sometimes.”

Luke Voit gets mobbed by teammates after his sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Orioles.
Luke Voit gets mobbed by teammates after his sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Orioles.Robert Sabo

The end result, on the other hand, enhanced their positive vibe, as they moved 4 ½ games ahead of the Orioles in the race for the final American League playoff spot and remained a half-game behind the Blue Jays for second place in the AL East (the Yankees trail by one game in the loss column) after the Jays held on to beat the Mets, 3-2, Saturday night.

It represents a notable, needed turnaround from that brutal 5-15 stretch that imperiled everything. Said Boone: “You just kept waiting for it to happen, desperately wanting it to happen every day. So hopefully now it feels like the guys are starting to feel it and build that confidence and coming to the field now expecting to get it done.”

So much so that, when the Orioles tied the game at 1-1 on an underwhelming sequence — Hanser Alberto slashed a sixth-inning single to left field that Brett Gardner failed to pick up, allowing Alberto to reach second; Jose Iglesias advanced Alberto to third on a liner to right; and Ryan Mountcastle scored his teammate with a flare to short center field that escaped a drawn-in, retreating Thairo Estrada — the Yankees shrugged it off and kept pitching. Same thing when Gary Sanchez’s 114.8 mph line drive in the bottom of the sixth, the best-stroked shot all day, traveled right into Mountcastle’s glove, leaving Gleyber Torres at second, where he would stay.

Ditto for Montgomery’s fielding error in the fifth on a DJ Stewart bunt and DJ LeMahieu’s throwing error in the seventh on a Pat Valaika grounder, and when Jonathan Holder came in for the 10th and didn’t allow placed runner Andrew Velazquez to score from second, that set up the Yankees to capitalize on the new rule in the bottom of the inning. Placed runner LeMahieu jetted to third on Hunter Harvey’s first pitch of the inning, a wild one, and Voit battled through an eight-pitch at-bat in the shadows, fouling off three Hunter offerings with two strikes, before lifting the deep-enough fly ball to center field as LeMahieu tagged and cruised home.

“Obviously it was a tough slog there for a couple of weeks,” Boone said, “but guys are starting to gain a little bit of confidence and hopefully we can go finish off a really good series into the off day [Monday].”

During that slog, the Yankees lost games every which way: Bad starting pitching, poor bullpen work, subpar hitting. Losable games, which is most of them, turned into losses.

At the moment, nearly everything — the game, second place and the World Series — seems winnable and attainable. Surf’s up for the Yankees. Can they ride this as far as they hope?

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