Aaron Boone after the New York Yankees turned whiteout

NEW YORK — After another lackluster performance by the New York Yankees in their 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, manager Aaron Boone put his team to the test.

“We should be mad right now and we need to start playing better. Plain and simple,” Boone said after the Yankees’ fifth shutout loss of August, most in the majors. New York began the month having been excluded only a total of six times.

“You put a lot into trying to shake hands at the end of the day, and we’ve been able to do it together at a very high clip this year. We’ve hit a tough spot and we have to dig ourselves in,” Boone said. “We can sit here, and I can continue to answer questions and talk about it… but we have to do it. And the good news is we have all the pieces in that room to do it. I know it’s coming. I know it’s going to happen, but It really sucks going through that.”

After their loss to Toronto in the second matchup of a four-game series, the Yankees are 5-12 in August, with two runs or fewer in eight of those games. Only two teams, the Nationals (5-12) and Tigers (4-13), have fared that poorly this month.

The Yankees were widely considered the best team in baseball after going 44-16 (.733) in their first 60 games of the year. They have gone 29-31 in their last 60 games, becoming the first team in MLB history with a .700 winning percentage in their first 60 decisions and then dropping below .500 in their next 60 decisions, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

And it is precisely that track record that Boone cites when talking about the confidence he has in his team.

“We’ve done it most of the year. I have total faith in that room and those players,” Boone said. “We have more than our share of the fight right now. But we have to find a way. I really don’t care about the number [of games in the divisional lead]. If we play like this and continue to walk away at the end of the night, it’s not going to matter. If we band together and play our game, we’ll run away. Eight, nine, ten, seven, five, we have to play better. We have to start racking up some wins. And I hope that starts tomorrow afternoon.”

Boone specifically referred to the Yankees’ waning division lead. On Friday, July 8, the Yankees held their biggest lead atop the American League East at 15.5 games. Friday’s loss to Toronto cut the division lead to eight. The last time the Yankees’ divisional lead was this low was after the end of the game on June 10, when they were up 7.5 games.

Infielder DJ LeMahieu, who was in the starting lineup in both losses to the Blue Jays after missing four games due to inflammation in his right toe, admitted the team has been pushing lately, which has contributed to his current drift.

“I don’t have an easy answer, but the last thing we can do is try to do more than we’re capable of,” LeMahieu said. “If everybody just does their job, what they’re capable of, as a unit, we’ll get a lot of benefit from that. But it’s hard to do. Everybody wants to be the guy. But as we’ve all been talking, as a group and individually, about stay within ourselves and have good at-bats.

The Yankees will try to have better at-bats to avoid their third straight series loss at home, and third straight series loss to an AL East rival after going 1-2 against Boston and Tampa Bay.

The Yankees have had an exceptional record against the American League East this season. Their series loss at Boston last Sunday was the first to an AL East team since April 15-17 at Baltimore, snapping a 12-series losing streak. After the series loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees went 1-2 against the Rays before facing the Blue Jays.

The last time the Yankees lost three straight home series was their first three home series in 2019.

“I don’t give a shit about [divisional] leader,” Boone said. “Play better. We will handle it. You can talk about it, eight, nine, seven, 10, we need to play better. If we play like this, it’s not going to matter anyway. We run our business, we’re in a great place. We understand that. But we have to run our business.”

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