Yankees’ baserunning symbolizes team’s struggles

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BUFFALO — You can point to a lot of reasons why the Yankees are this far into the season and staring at an 8½-game deficit in the AL East, in fourth place and with questions mounting about the future of their season.

Only the Tigers have scored fewer runs in the American League. The starting pitching, which exceeded expectations for most of the first two months, has regressed the past couple of weeks.

They’ve also grounded into a major-league high 64 double plays and have a minus-7 run differential.

But there’s another category in which they “lead” the league that is also a concern.

Despite being a team that lacks speed, the Yankees have been thrown out on the bases 31 times. Entering Monday, Oakland and Texas are next worst at 23 and the league average is 18.

It’s a new problem for the Yankees, who typically find themselves in the middle of the pack in baserunning.

Jean Segura #2 of the Philadelphia Phillies tags out Rougned Odor #18 of the New York Yankees in a rundown
Jean Segura of the Phillies tags out the Yankees’ Rougned Odor in a rundown.
Getty Images

In each of Aaron Boone’s first three seasons as manager, the Yankees were either below or just above the league average.

The latest culprit was Rougned Odor, caught between second and third on a grounder to shortstop in Sunday’s blowout loss in Philadelphia.

Boone said he thought Odor was “aggressive in his secondary lead and a little bit of a point of no return place” on the play.

“[It’s] very frustrating,’’ Boone said Sunday of the inability to clean up the baserunning. “So we’ll practice it and examine the mechanics of it. … These are things we’ve got to continue to instruct and teach.”

Boone’s response was part of a tense postgame in which the understandably agitated manager had to answer for his team’s poor play.

And as bad as some of the offensive stats are, few things look worse than a team repeatedly making mistakes on the basepaths.

Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Gio Urshela have all made obvious gaffes.

The issue now is: Where does the responsibility fall for the mistakes?

Boone bears some of it, since he is, after all, the manager. Baserunning coach Reggie Willits has done extra pregame work.

The odd part is that it’s generally a new problem with old players.

Certainly, the offensive problems don’t help. When Sanchez was thrown out between first and second last month in a game in Detroit, it was clear the team was pressing, unable to score runs.

Some scouts have noted that on grounders to short, the shift has made baserunning trickier. The Yankees were on the good side of that Sunday, when they got Jean Segura in a rundown between second and short as part of a double play.

No matter the reasons, the Yankees still need to improve quickly.

Gio Urshela #29 of the New York Yankees is tagged out at third base trying to reach on a wild pitch.
Gio Urshela is tagged out at third base trying to reach on a wild pitch.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“All I can tell you is we’re grinding over this as much as we can,’’ Boone said Sunday of the team’s myriad issues.

He pointed to adjustments the team has made in regard to offensive routines, as well as added work on the bases.

The results have yet to follow.

Their next three games come against the Blue Jays at their temporary home at Sahlen Field. Toronto is part of a robust AL East and the Yankees enter Tuesday just 14-21 versus opponents in their division and 16-21 when facing teams with a record over .500.

Add to that they’ve lost three in a row and it’s easy to understand why Boone said Sunday, “We need to pick it up in the biggest kind of way.”

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