It was only 11 days ago that the Yankees went into Boston having won three in a row to pull within a game of the second wild card spot. They were very much in the race, with a realistic chance of taking control of it in the next week or so. They controlled their own destiny.
Then it all fell apart.
“It definitely started that series,” Vernon Wells said. “Taking three out of four in Baltimore, then going to Boston — they’ve had our number. What they did to us at home and then what they did to us there, we caught them at a bad time. That apparently put us in a funk. That’s part of this game, unfortunately. I think there’s enough heart in this clubhouse to finish this thing off the right way.”
There was a real sense of finality in the Yankees clubhouse tonight. It was mostly quiet — not many players around after this one — but even Joe Girardi, so defiant pregame, seemed ready to concede defeat. Five games out with five games to play, the Yankees literally need to win every game and have the Indians lose ever game. And even then, some other team could easily sneak in and take that final playoff spot.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Girardi said. “It hurts. You think about, this all started February 15 or whatever it was (that spring training opened). We put ourselves in a pretty good position after a month, month and a half, then we struggled, then we put ourselves in a good position 10 days ago, and then we struggled again. It’s a tough position to be in because you play every day in our game. It’s not a good feeling.”
Jason Giambi, of all people, hit the walk-off home run for Cleveland tonight. That’s the hit that left the Yankees with a tragic number of one.
“Any time you put this uniform on, you expect to go out and produce and win,” Wells said. “When you’re not doing it, it’s frustrating. There have been so many different guys in this uniform, and to a man, they have gone out and done everything they could on the field to do their part and help us win games.”
It hasn’t been enough. And at this point, at this point it’s clear that it won’t be enough.
• Another bad start for Hiroki Kuroda, who said he’s not entirely sure what’s gone wrong in the past month and a half. He’s had trouble early in games, and that was certainly the case again tonight. “The tendency’s have been that I give up runs early in the innings,” Kuroda said. “And today third-pitch home run, which gave my team a bad start. That sort of let the momentum (begin).”
• Kuroda said he feels healthy, and he feels able to deal with whatever late-season fatigue has set in. He’s simply not pitching well lately. “He’s not locating his split,” Girardi said. “And the slider that Joyce hit (for a home run) was just a spinner down the middle. It just seems that it’s been taking him a little bit of time to find his stuff. … It’s always hard (to figure out) what you attribute it to. His stuff has just not been as crisp. His sinker, it’s been a little bit flatter. It hasn’t had the same amount of bite to it. It’s been more across (than down), and his slider has been okay at times, but not as crisp as earlier.”
• In his past 12 starts against the American League East, Kuroda is 1-9 with a 5.85 ERA. In his past eight starts total, he’s 0-6 with a 6.56.
• Five earned runs were the most Kuroda had allowed at Yankee Stadium since July 12, 2012.
• Of course, can’t blame this one entirely on Kuroda. The Yankees were shut out for the 11th time this season, their most in a single season since 1990 when they were shut out 15 times. They’ve shut out six times at home, in a ballpark known for offense.
• Important offensive numbers for tonight: 11 runners left on base and 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. “We had opportunities,” Girardi said. “We had six or seven walks in the first three or four innings, and we weren’t able to put any hits up there. Had a couple chances. We had the bases loaded with one out and weren’t able to score. Runs have been tough for us lately.”
• Wells on Matt Moore: “He made pitches when he needed to. He got himself in trouble and got himself out of it. They’re pretty good at doing that. … You can’t win ballgames if you don’t put runs on the board. You give their pitcher credit, but we had opportunities and didn’t come through.”
• The Yankees had four hits today. Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano and Eduardo Nunez singled and Robinson Cano doubled. Cano needs one more double to reach 40 for the year.
• Boone Logan struck out the only batter he faced tonight. It was his first appearance since September 6, but Logan said his elbow still didn’t feel great. He’s been diagnosed with a bone spur that’s likely been there all season.
• Seems crazy to bring it up, but that Mariano Rivera bobblehead situation actually turned into quite the debacle. Fans had to redeem their vouchers here at the stadium and there was only one location to pick up the dolls. The line literally stretched through much of the lower concourse. Pretty crazy. Transportation issues — something about a delayed train — kept the bobbleheads from getting here in time.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “It’s been different things at different times. You can look at the Boston series, we didn’t pitch well. We played well in Baltimore, and then we pitched better in Boston the next time we went there, but we didn’t swing the bats. We didn’t swing the bats in Toronto. You lose a game 2-to-1 (against the Giants) when you have some opportunities to do it, so I think it’s been a combination of both.”
Associated Press photos