Last time Alfonso Soriano was a lineup regular in the Bronx, he was a leadoff hitter with 38 home runs. He had three teammates who finished with at least 100 RBI, the bench was full of guys with slugging percentages well over .400, and the Yankees had the second-best OPS and third-most runs in the American League.
“I remember the Yankees when I used to play, we don’t lose games like this, 1-0,” Soriano said. “I remember we lost one or two games like that with two hits, 1-0, but that’s part of the game. The game changes a lot. Nothing we can do about this game tomorrow, just think about tomorrow and try to win tomorrow.”
This Yankees team has been shutout nine times, three more than all of last year and tied for their most in a season since 1992. This was their fourth two-hit game of the year. They haven’t homered in nine games, their longest such drought since 1984, and if they don’t hit a home run tomorrow, they’ll match their longest homerless streak since 1976.
With 58 games to play, the Yankees are four games over .500 and eight games behind the first-place Rays. If this thing is going to turn around — if this team is going to start winning like Yankees teams of the recent past — it’s going to have to happen soon.
“I think that’s fair to say,” Joe Girardi said. “We have to win games, there’s no doubt about it. If we’re going to get back in this race, we’re going to have to win games, and we’re going to have to start tomorrow.”
Derek Jeter is expected back tomorrow. Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson are expected back in early August. Is that enough offense — coming back with enough games left — to make a difference and make this team win again? The new guy seems to think so, or maybe he’s just remembering teams that are long gone.
“I know the offense is not good right now,” Soriano said. “But as soon as we put one inning together, I think everything will be fine.”
• The Yankees have been shut out twice in the past week, and both were Ivan Nova starts that deserved better. He’s allowed a total of four runs through 14 innings in those two starts, and he’s 0-2 in them. “Sometimes when you pitch good, it’s hard to be charged with a loss,” Nova said. “It doesn’t feel great, but at the end, I’m still happy with the way I pitched.”
• This is only the second time in Nova’s career that he’s lost back-to-back decisions as a starter. He also lost three in a row last year. It’s also the first time in his career that he’s lasted at least seven innings in four straight starts.
• With Nova, there always seems to be a focus on his curveball — probably because he can be a terrific pitch — but that’s not what Nova’s focused on lately. “It’s not really my curveball,” he said. “It’s all my pitches. I’ve been throwing strikes. I’ve been aggressive with everything. I know a lot of people give the credit to my curveball, but it’s all my pitches have been great.”
• Chris Stewart on Nova’s curveball: “It’s the same curveball, but he’s mixing in the other pitches.”
• Obviously the high point for Nova came in the fourth inning when the first two batters reached base and Nova responded with three straight strikeouts against Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson. “When he needed big outs, for the most part he got them today,” Girardi said. “He got strikeouts when he needed them.”
• Of course, getting big outs doesn’t mean much when the offense can’t do its part. This was only the Yankees third 1-0 loss at the current Yankee Stadium since it opened. They had one such loss in 2012 and one in 2011.
• The Yankees had only three base runners today: Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error, Lyle Overbay singled and Brett Gardner doubled. Those came in the fourth, fifth and sixth game. They went down in order their first three innings and their last three innings.
• To his obvious credit, Chris Archer has been terrific this season. This was his second complete game shutout of the month. “He threw me a lot of good pitches to hit, and I just missed them,” Stewart said. “He’s got a decent fastball, and it’s got some good angle on it when he drives it downhill. It gets on you a little bit sometimes too. He obviously mixes in the slider well to get us off the fastball, and that’s the name of the game is mixing enough to miss bats, and he did a good job of that today.”
• Both Stewart and Nova actually seemed happy with the pitch that Johnson hit to drive in the one Rays run. “It’s kind of the way our breaks are going,” Stewart said.
• Hitless for a second straight game since the trade, Soriano admitted that he feels pressure, but also said he feels comfortable handling that pressure and has always felt it playing here. “I think any time you’re part of a trade, you kind of want to make a big splash,” Girardi said. “But this is not a new place for him, which I think helps him, and fans are really warm to him.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I said from Day 1, Day 1 when we left spring training, we were going to have to win close games. We weren’t going to slug people. I knew that. So, no, it’s not a total shock.”
Associated Press photos