by Deb Seymour
On Thursday night, September 16th, both the Yankees and the Giants were scheduled to play in almost back-to-back time slots, with the Yankees playing the last game in their season series against the division rival Baltimore Orioles at 5 pm Eastern and the Giants playing their second game of the season against the division rival Washington Football Team at 8 pm Eastern. Fans of both teams were looking forward to being booked for two ballgames, combining for easily six hours of sports entertainment — or more.
By now, there is no suspense to be had about which team won either game: the Orioles walked off the Yankees in the 10th inning of their game to a score of 3-2, and the WFT kicked a field goal in the last 5 seconds of their game to beat the Giants, 30-29.
What struck me about both games and resultant losses, however, is how similar they were despite one being a baseball game and one being a football game. There is the obvious, which is that both games took place in the rain, and both ended in a close, one-point score difference. But there are more similarities that occurred than just a close score in each game. The clearest similarity is in the details of how each game was lost. In the case of the Yankee game, with a score of 2-1 Yankees, in the 9th inning catcher Gary Sanchez failed to catch (or at least block) a seemingly catchable wild pitch dealt by reliever Clay Holmes, allowing the tying run to score. This led to the 10th inning in which the Yankees lost the game. In the case of the Giants game, with 5 seconds left on the clock and a score of 29-27 Giants, WFT kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a field goal that would have ended the game in the Giants’ favor — except for one thing: Giants’ defensive end Dexter Lawrence was ruled offsides on the snap, the Giants were penalized 5 yards, and, on his second try, Hopkins’ kick landed through the uprights.
Both the missed catch and the offsides have been reviewed by experts and amateurs alike; and multiple opinions have been professed about whether the wild pitch missed by Sanchez was either an eye test — or even statistically — catchable pitch by an MLB-level catcher and whether Lawrence was, in fact, offsides on the kick — or actually moved forward on the hitch the WFT snapper has in his snap motion.
Either way, in each case, a split second of questionable play under pressure led to the loss for each team.
The Yankees have had an arduous, extremely streaky season with more ups and downs than a roller coaster, and are fighting for their lives just to make a wild card spot in the (soon to be held) MLB playoffs. The Giants made multimillion dollar changes to their roster this offseason, have a starting quarterback entering what some have called a do or die year, and — after a year of injury recovery — have finally regained their first round, second overall pick of 2018, star running back. Was there a lot on the line for each team in their Thursday night game? You bet there was. Was it a must-win game for either team? Probably not; but the signals were pretty clear that both teams had better step up their game the rest of the way.
For those of us who watched both games in their entirety, those similarities alone were enough to make us feel like it was deja vu all over again at the end of the Giants-WFT game. But there was another sneaky similarity — which, to some degree, points to why the Yankees are where they are in the standings right now, and to what the Giants had better upgrade in their play to even contend this season.
Despite having seven hits in a game against a team that as of last night has had 100 losses this season, the Yankees managed only two runs — both scored in the first inning. Although they played another nine innings of baseball, they couldn’t manage even one more run. This despite being projected prior to the season to be a serious contender for a World Series title, based on their pitching and lineup. The game in Baltimore on Thursday was pretty reflective of the Yankees’ season as a whole thus far: stranded runners, double plays, missed opportunities.
The Giants, on the other hand, scored 29 points in their game against the WFT. Although few had projected the Giants to win their division this year, the expectation was their offense would be improved over that of last year and their 2020 ninth ranked defense would help propel them through the season. And yet, in Thursday’s game, in a critical play in the end zone for a touchdown, what appeared to be a near perfect pass was dropped by the wide receiver and the touchdown never occurred. Would that touchdown have been the difference in the game for the Giants? Friday morning quarterbacking by now is over for the Giants’ loss, but we can always say “maybe.” That kind of dropped pass can’t be occurring on a regular basis for a team that wants to contend.
It’s now Saturday morning and both games are behind us by over a day, and hence we need to look forward. The Yankees won their game against Cleveland last night and play again within hours, and the Giants have nine days between games to reflect on what they need to improve before they face the Falcons next week. Fans of both teams are over their initial shock of late Thursday night and are again debating the futures of both teams’ seasons. Ultimately, what fans want to see is well played games with players performing up to their potential. That’s the hope for the Yankees the rest of the way — and for the Giants for the long season they still face.