Two months ago, Curtis Granderson might have lined a two-run single. Or Russell Martin’s double might have bounced around long enough for Ichiro Suzuki to score. Two months ago, the Yankees were just beginning a 10-game winning streak that would spark their best baseball of the season. But this is not two months ago, and the Yankees are hardly playing their best baseball.
“There should be a high level of concern,” Eric Chavez said. “Anybody who says that there isn’t is lying. You’ve just got to win ballgames, and we’re not finding a way to do that, and it should be a concern. It’s that time of the year when, yeah, it’s a concern. We need to start playing good and winning games.”
The Yankees had a chance to win tonight. Two-out, ninth-inning RBIs by Ichiro and Martin pulled the Yankees within a run and put the go-ahead run into scoring position, but Granderson popped out to end it. The Yankees have lost 12 of their past 18. Since the All-Star break, they’ve had more four-game losing streaks than three-game winning streaks. Granderson has just one hit in his past 18 at-bats.
“I think the injury bug is starting to catch up to us where I think we got away with it early,” Chavez said. “This all seems to be when we lost Alex. He’s just a huge part of our lineup, and I think we’re really showing how important he is to this team.”
Alex Rodriguez broke his hand on July 24, and the Yankees are 5-8 since then. Their recent slide really dates back to those four straight one-run losses in Oakland just a few days before the Rodriguez injury.
“We’re not playing very good,” Martin said. “We’re going to have to pick it up. We have some tough teams coming up. We have to finish this here, so hopefully we can win the next two and split (the series), then just keep on going with our road trip.”
• The Yankees struggles finally reached Phil Hughes, who’s been very good since the end of April. In the same ballpark where he threw a complete game earlier this season, Hughes was touched up for four runs through 4.1 innings. He breezed through the first three innings, but a 40-plus-pitch fourth inning ended with two Tigers runs, then Miguel Cabrera doubled in two more in the fifth. “I really felt comfortable in the first three innings,” Hughes said. “And then something just kinda left, and I couldn’t locate my fastball as well as I wanted to, and I got away from my changeup a little bit.”
• Hughes reached 102 pitches before Girardi pulled him with one out in the fifth, but Hughes said he didn’t feel fatigued and his fastball velocity seemed fine. He just wasn’t able to put hitters away tonight. “I think it falls back to not having my breaking ball,” Hughes said. “I threw some decent ones, but for the most part they were kind of erratic, so it’s just one of those things.”
• It also falls back to Cabrera being extremely good. “He’s super-tough,” Martin said. “You look at his numbers on fastballs, curveballs, sliders and changeups, he’s hitting over .300 on all of them. When he’s hitting, it’s like pick your poison. He’s just a really smart hitter and he’s tough to pitch to. When he gets a pitch to hit, he doesn’t miss it.”
• Granderson said moving to the top of the order has nothing to do with his recent slump. “I’m just not putting the ball in play the way I want to,” he said. “… If you’re not hitting, you’re not hitting. It doesn’t matter where you happen to be batting.”
• Nick Swisher fouled a ball off his right foot. That’s why Girardi came out to check on him. Swisher said he’s fine. He stayed in the game and finished with three hits, including a double in the at-bat when he was hurt.
• Ultimately, Cody Eppley getting hit in the head was pretty funny, and he was laughing about it in the clubhouse. The home-plate umpire had already thrown him a new ball, so he didn’t expected Chavez to throw him one as well. Chavez expected Eppley to look for the ball, but Eppley had his head down as Chavez tossed the ball back to the mound. “Next thing I know,” Eppley said. “Chavy’s saying my name right as it’s hitting me on the head.”
• Girardi on the Yankees struggles: “It’s been a struggle for us and there’s no doubt about it. But the first month, we struggled and we came out of it. We’ll come out of it. I mean, we will. Every club goes through it. And when we went through it the first time, I said it may not be the last time, either. You just go through them.”
• Final word goes to Chavez: “Just keep fighting. There’s nothing to do, really. It is a bad stretch, and we’re not playing good, but I’m a big believer in when things are going good, bad’s around the corner, and when bad’s here, good’s around the corner. That’s what keeps me going.”
Associated Press photos