The Yankees have certainty sent out some underwhelming lineups this season due to their never-ending list of injuries, but as far as the bottom of the order goes, I can’t recall a group that looked as punchless as the quartet that we saw hitting 6-9 in tonight’s 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Newly acquired first baseman Travis Ishikawa hit sixth and was booed in his debut, striking out in his only two plate appearances. He was followed by Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez and Austin Romine — three guys who might have a hard time finding Major League jobs elsewhere. Not exactly what I would call a recipe for success.
“We did it in Minnesota,” Joe Girardi said of this type of lineup putting up runs. “It’s kind of similar to what we had tonight, and we were able to do it in Minnesota. (Royals starter Jeremy) Guthrie has been tough. I’ve watched a couple of his starts, and he’s thrown the ball pretty well. He really kept us off balance.”
To Girardi’s point, the Yankees have found ways to score runs with similar lineups this season. They’ve fought and scrapped and probably exceeded expectations to this point, but the glaring need for more pop is becoming more obvious by the day.
That need was highlighted tonight due to Girardi’s decision to rest Lyle Overbay, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez, but he ended up using all three as pinch-hitters in the later innings. After that, the Yankees finally started to put guys on base in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but Nunez, Brett Gardner and Zoilo Almonte struck out consecutively with the bases loaded to end the game.
“You’ve got a real strikeout pitcher on the mound,” Girardi said of Royals’ closer Greg Holland. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
• The guys at the bottom of the order were like a black hole tonight, but it’s also clear that Gardner is slumping in the leadoff spot. He was having arguably his best season through the first three months of the season, but July has not been kind to him. He’s now just 1 for his last 25 and has struck out at least once in each of his last 16 games. “He’s just struggling a little bit right now,” Girardi said. “It started in Minnesota, and he was swinging the bat great before that. I mean unbelievable. As good as I’ve seen him swing the bat, and he’s just kind of been in a little funk right now. I can’t really put my finger on it. I think it was Friday night when he led the game off with a double, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe he’s out of it,’ but he’s just struggling a little bit.”
• A 59-minute rain delay ended Phil Hughes’ night early. The rain came down in buckets in the bottom of the fourth, and Girardi elected not to send him back out when play resumed. Guthrie, on the other hand, did continue to pitch after the delay. “He really didn’t have a whole lot of pitches,” Girardi said of Guthrie. “I think he was at 36 at that point. Hughsie had worked a little bit harder, and I know Hughsie would be second (to pitch). I was thinking an hour and 15 minutes, I wasn’t comfortable bringing him back in.”
• Here’s Hughes on how the decision was made to pull him: “I was throwing in the cages. They asked me if I felt OK, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go,’ and left it at that.”
• Hughes gave up two runs in the second, but said that he felt like he was beginning to find his groove after that. “It was tough,” he said. “I felt like I may have found something in the third or fourth inning. I was throwing the ball better, but that’s baseball.”
• Hughes was coming off of two excellent starts in a row, so he was disappointed that he couldn’t try and keep that momentum going. He only pitched four innings tonight, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out two. “There last few starts, I feel like I’ve kind of been finding myself,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
• Seriously, how long do you guys think Ishikawa will stick around? I really don’t see the sense in keeping him, other than to maybe spell Overbay once a week. They’re both left-handed bats, and the Yankees are desperate for right-handed hitters. Overbay isn’t the most productive hitter around, but he’s certainly much more capable than Ishikawa. If he’s still here in two weeks, I’ll be shocked.
• In other nightly Derek Jeter update, The Captain went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored tonight at Triple-A. Reports are that he ran well and got a lot of work in the field.
Associated Press photos