The Yankees have had a lead in seven of their past 10 losses. They’ve been held to six hits or less in each of their past five games. They’ve lost three in a row, five of their past six and 11 of their past 16. Their 10-game division lead has disappeared.
“Seems like the same story every day,” Derek Jeter said.
Slumps happen. We all know this. That 10-game lead was inflated by the fact the Yankees had been playing extremely well for quite a while, and it was generally understood that they were going to fall off that pace at some point. But to this extent? At this point the season? Against teams that are chasing them for the division title?
“We’ve got to hit,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s hard to win if you don’t hit. We’ve had a tough time scoring runs the last couple weeks, probably starting around the White Sox series. That’s been part of our problem. We’re just not getting it done right now. As a club, we’re just not hitting the ball very well.”
After Robinson Cano homered in the first inning, the Yankees collected nothing but singles the rest of the way. They had six hits, only two of which came in the last five innings. Jeter’s eighth inning single was left stranded by back-to-back strikeouts. Alex Rodriguez’s ninth inning single and stolen base was left stranded by a routine fly ball and grounder to second.
Afterward, hitting coach Kevin Long was talking about the need to do something — anything — to get this team out of its offensive funk.
“We’ve got start doing some things,” Long said. “We might start having some guys bunt that you don’t normally see bunt. That might have to be the case right now until we get it going. Maybe we take a guy like Swisher in the third inning today, when it’s first and second with nobody out, maybe he bunts. We’re going to talk about that, and we’re going to address some of those things, and we’ll see if we can’t turn it around.
“… Obviously we’ve lived on some home runs, and that’s been well talked about, but at times like this it might be moving a runner. That’s just as important as hitting home runs. We’ll stay at it. We’ll keep battling. I think the biggest concern here is we’ve lost our cushion. We’ve got to turn it around, and we’ve got to turn it around in hurry.”
• Freddy Garcia has failed to pitch through the sixth inning in each of his past three starts, but this was his first loss since the end of July. This was the first time he’d allowed three home runs in a game since 2010. “That’s my fault today,” Garcia said. “I gave up five runs, we lost 5-2. Like I say, I don’t make the pitch when I need it and that’s why I got hurt.”
• Garcia was especially upset with himself for not being able to put hitters away. In the third inning, with a one-run lead, he had two outs and a 1-2 count on both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria. Zobrist walked and Longoria hit the go-ahead, two-run homer. “I got the guy 1-2, I go 3-2,” Garcia said. “I got this guy 1-2 and have to make a pitch. I cannot go 3-2. Right now we don’t need that. I’ve got that guy 1-2 I need to make a pitch and call the guy out, et him out.”
• On the bright side, the Yankees bullpen did a nice job with 2.2 hitless innings. Joba Chamberlain had his best inning since coming off the disabled list, striking out two in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
• On the flip side, Rays starter Alex Cobb was outstanding and retired the last 10 batters he faced. “He mixes it up pretty good,” Jeter said. “He mixes in his offspeed pitches, spots his fastball and doesn’t throw too many balls over the middle of the plate. We scored those two runs early, but you’ve got to come put and score a little bit more. You want to make your pitching staff a little more comfortable, but we didn’t do it. We have to find ways to score more runs.”
• The Yankees five straight games of six hits or less is their longest such streak since 1990 when they had six straight games of six hits or less.
• The Yankees only runs came on Cano’s two-run homer in the first inning. It was his 29th of the season, tying his career-high. Cano has 10 extra-base hits in his past 12 games and leads all big league second basemen in batting average, hits, home runs and RBI.
• Cano said he hopes to play second base tomorrow. “I’m going to try to take groundballs before the game and see how it feels,” he said.
• Girardi was ejected in the fourth inning after Chris Dickerson was called out on a called strike three that looked high. Girardi didn’t want to talk about it and wouldn’t even tell the media why he was ejected, but the umpire crew said it was for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. “It was a high pitch and (umpire Tony Randazzo) was kind of blocked out of there,” Long said. “It looked like it was way up. I went and watched the replay and it wasn’t as up as it looked to be. That was it. Obviously our dugout was stunned at the call and you go back and look at the replay and it’s not as bad as it looked, but Molina came up and came up really high, so it looked like the pitch was at his neck.”
• Long said Girardi wasn’t yelling at Randazzo, but rather telling Randazzo not to look toward the Yankees dugout after making such a borderline call. “There was yelling out of the dugout,” crew chief Brian Gorman said. “When Tony looked in, he told him to knock it off and Joe continued to yell. He was ejected for arguing pitches. He was arguing the last pitch of the at-bat.”
• Dickerson said he tried to call timeout before that last pitch, but that was a non-issue. The only argument was about the strike call.
• Final word goes to Cano: “We’ve got great talent on this team. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but this is part of the game. We’ve got to go out there, forget about what happened in the past, and start from zero tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos