The Yankees have lost eight games this month. In those eight loses, they are 3-for-52 with runners in scoring position.
Yes, Hiroki Kuroda made some costly mistakes tonight, and Kyle Drabek was awfully good with his sinker, and a couple of questionable calls and bad plays certainly hurt. But the Yankees went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and it was impossible to ignore the growing trend that’s been hurting this team for more than two weeks.
“That’s what’s killing us,” Joe Girardi said. “Guys have got to find a way. You’ve got to find a way to get a hit in that situation and see if it can become contagious. You put some more pressure on them. But we just have not hit with runners in scoring position on a consistent basis. We have not.”
Drabek was so good that Mark Teixeira compared him to Roy Halladay, but as Alex Rodriguez said in Kansas City, the Yankees can only tip their cap for so long. And that period expired a long time ago. Obviously this team can hit — they have one of the highest scoring offenses in baseball with some of the best hitters in the game — but situational hitting is often the difference in winning and losing.
Teixeira said he hasn’t sensed anyone pressing, but Russell Martin conceded that “it seemed like every hitter was trying to hit a three-run homer with nobody on.” It’s hard to pinpoint a reason for the Yankees inconsistency with runners in scoring position, and it’s hard to find a fool proof way to break out of it. There’s skill involved, but there’s also some luck and random fluctuations that play a role.
“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Girardi said. “I think the skill is being able to relax and get your pitch. I think the fluctuation is you’re going to hit balls hard and make outs sometimes, or they’re just going to make really good pitches pitch after pitch.”
If you’re looking for solutions, the clubhouse offered none tonight, only this hard-to-argue reality: “Guys have got to do it, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to get it done.”
• Hiroki Kuroda allowed a season-high seven runs through five innings. He was coming off a strong start, but he’s battling his own inconsistencies in his first season in the American League. “I can’t make that as an excuse,” he said. “I’ve been studying a lot of these hitters on video and talking a lot with the coaches. I can’t really make that an excuse, but hopefully I’ll start winning.”
• Girardi felt that Kuroda’s problem came down to a few pitches. He left a 3-2 slider up and J.P. Arencibia hit a two-run homer. He walked Jose Bautista on a close pitch, and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a three-run shot. “At times he threw the ball really well,” Girardi said. “But when he got a ball up, they didn’t miss it.”
• Martin has been catching Kuroda since their days in Los Angeles. “It’s not typical of Hiro to have this type of outing,” Martin said. “But it can happen to anyone. It’s a tough league, but he’s a quality pitcher. … I think today we just had an off day. He’s got the ability, and he’s got the arsenal, to get outs anywhere. I truly believe that.”
• Kuroda gave up three of the Blue Jays four homers tonight. He was asked whether playing in more hitter friendly parks has hurt him since leaving Los Angeles. “The home runs that I gave up, I think they would be home runs in any park, American League or National League,” he said.
• Drabek got 13 groundball outs. “That sinker was really working,” Teixeira said. “You don’t want to say Halladay, because Halladay is a special pitcher, but getting the ground balls, it felt like Halladay was out there tonight. He just wasn’t getting the ball up in the zone at all.”
• Robinson Cano dropped the ball trying to turn a double play in the second inning. It didn’t go down as an error — the Yankees got one out on the play — but it probably hurt Kuroda, because it looked like Cano was going to get two. Kuroda struck out the next batter before allowing Arencibia’s two-run homer.
• This was the interaction with Girardi about the Jayson Nix being called out at second base in the seventh inning: What did they tell you about that play at second? “Said he was out.” Have you seen it? “Oh yeah.” He wasn’t. “I realize that.”
• Cano hit his 300th career double, tying Roy White for 15th on the Yankees all-time list.
• Teixeira’s single was the 1,500th hit of his career.
• By the way, Teixeira’s voice sounded terrible after the game. Worst I’ve heard him sound since this coughing thing started about a month ago. He was glad they closed the roof after batting practice. “Maybe they heard me hacking out there and they closed it for me,” he said.
• Even glass-half-full Girardi called this an “ugly” game. Some of the writers were discussing whether this might have been the Yankees ugliest loss of the year. They didn’t hit, didn’t pitch and didn’t play good defense. Just a bad night and a bad game.
Associated Press photos