The heart of the Yankees order — Nos. 2 through 5 — combined to hit 1-for-17 tonight. They had a sacrifice fly, a walk and four strikeouts.
“You hate to say it again, but we don’t have home runs right now,” Mark Teixeira said. “It’s tough to string together a whole lot of hits against good pitching – we faced some pretty good pitching the last two nights. Bartolo was really good last night, and their guy pitched really well tonight. Sometimes you need to pop a couple home runs off those guys, and we haven’t been able to do that. … We just haven’t gotten it done.”
This isn’t a one-night phenomenon. Robinson Cano’s batting average is down to .277 following a bad two-week stretch. The rest of the Yankees supposed-to-be run producers are hitting .237 or below, and the team has gone five games without a home run, matching their longest homerless streak since 2000.
With little need for an introduction, here’s hitting coach Kevin Long talking about…
Robinson Cano: “I think Robbie is all right. We’re going to do some more left-handed stuff with him. If you look at his numbers against righties, he’s killing them. I think where his production goes down is facing lefties, and we’re going to move him to my group in batting practice (Long pitches left-handed) and see if that helps out a little bit. That’s one of the solutions we have come up with.”
Mark Teixeira: “Yesterday he swung the bat good. Today I thought he hit some balls good. He’s come up with some big hits at some big times. He’s just getting accustomed to Major League pitching, and it’s going to take him a little bit of time. The sooner the better, but you’ve got to be somewhat patient with him.”
Travis Hafner: “Haf got into some bad habits when his shoulder was hurt. We felt pretty good about his swing as of late. We didn’t get the results today. Yesterday he smashed two balls; we didn’t get anything for that. Again, we’ll just stay at it, stay the course and I think at the end of the day these guys will come through.”
Vernon Wells: “Vernon is coming around a few balls here and there. He’s had a couple of good games and then kind of (not so good). Not really expanding too much. Getting some pitches to the outer part of the plate where maybe in the beginning of the year he was going the other way a little bit more.”
Kevin Youkilis: “Youkilis is starting to come around. You can see it. You can see the life in his body, his bat is starting to come through the zone. Certainly if (Youkilis and Teixeira) can get going and get on track, that’ll help us out a great deal.”
• Phil Hughes has lacked consistency in almost every way this season, but until tonight he had not walked a ton of guys. He had five walks tonight, having never walked more than two in a game this season. “Every time I really need to make a big pitch, I couldn’t execute it,” he said. “It was tough. I just felt like every single time I wanted to make a good pitch it wasn’t there. That’s what five walks looks like; consistently not being able to find it.”
• After the two-run homer, Hughes retired three straight, pitched around back-to-back walks, then struck out two in a 1-2-3 fourth. But his pitch count was extremely high, and there were two more walks in the fifth. Eventually the trouble just caught up to him. “I felt like my body language was terrible tonight,” he said. “I was trying to control myself, but after the fourth walk, I was almost trying to take a deep breath, see if I could slow myself down, find a way to battle through it. It was just one of those nights when every time I wanted to make a pitch, it just wasn’t there.”
• On the two-run homer by Brandon Moss: “Just a first-pitch changeup that was out over the plate,” Hughes said. “We talked about changeups being a good option to him, but he didn’t see my fastball at all tonight up to that point, so it was just a mistake over the plate.”
• Joe Girardi on Hughes: “I thought he struggled with some of his offspeed today. I thought he was able to throw some early curveballs for strikes but some of his other pitches he struggled a little bit. He got in some long counts. I thought he was trying to mix his pitches, but he just wasn’t able to throw strikes. … And I think (five walks) is a product that he wasn’t able to throw his offspeed for strikes tonight, in a sense. He tried to mix, and he never really got it going.”
• Despite Hughes and the offense, the Yankees trialed just 3-0 after five innings and cut the lead to 3-2 before Joba Chamberlain gave up two more runs in the eighth. “We had a chance,” Girardi said. “We got it to 3-2 and we had a runner on second with two outs and you hope you can tie the score up. Joba does a good job I think it was the bottom of the seventh getting two big strikeouts (actually one and a ground ball). But in the eighth, things got away from him a little bit.”
• Girardi explaining the move in the seventh to initially pinch hit Lyle Overbay and then Chris Stewart: “Well, once we got Nixy to second (on a stolen base), I’m going to make the move. I know he’s going to bring in Doolittle for Overbay, so at that point, unless Nixy gets to second, I’m not going to make the move. Once he gets to second, I thought Stew had a pretty good at-bat against Doolittle last night. He swung the bat pretty good and I made the move. It was either Romine against Straily or Stew against Doolittle, and I was going to take that.”
• Long on whether guys are pressing: “No. I think the clubhouse is loose. We just won three out of four in Seattle. We lost two games to a team that I believe is in first place and playing good baseball. My job is to make sure that we continue to get our work in, continue to work at having good at-bats, quality at-bats. At the end of the day, if there’s something that we need to address, we do that.”
• According to Josh Norris, catching prospect J.R. Murphy has been promoted from Trenton to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees have been happy with his defensive improvement this season. They’ve always liked the bat.
• Girardi actually indicated he might do something different with the lineup tomorrow, using the quick turnaround as an easy excuse to make a change. Asked whether he might shake things up, Girardi said: “Tomorrow’s a day game after a night game. We’ll see what we do.”
• Final word goes to Teixeira: “Yeah, we fought back. We’d like to not have to fight back every game. Getting the lead is nice for our pitchers. I think you saw, with our nice little streak against Cleveland and Seattle, we were ahead a lot of those games. It gives our pitcher a chance to settle down and pitch his game.”
Associated Press photos