For the second night in a row, the Yankees bullpen let a perfectly winable game slip away. And for the second night in a row, Joe Girardi made it clear that he’s not blaming the bullpen for his team’s fading playoff chances.
“We’ve got to find a way to score more than two runs,” Girardi said. “It’s hard to win when you only score two runs. Our pitching has been pretty good, but that’s a tall task. … If we don’t play better, we can’t get there.”
At this point, it seems foolish to even discuss the division. Maybe the Yankees can reel off a bunch of wins in a row and make it worth discussing again, but right now the Yankees are 9.5 games behind the Orioles. That’s way too much ground to even think about for a team that’s lost seven of its past nine games. Even the second wild card is awfully far away at this point, with the Yankees a full five games out, having to pass four teams to get there.
“We’re not where we want to be at, but we’ve still got 38 games,” Brett Gardner said. “You can make up five games in a week, and we still got five weeks left, five and a half weeks left. We’ve got time to make it up, we’ve just got to play better. That’s it.”
That’s it. Sure. That’s it. But that’s been “it” for several months now, and it just hasn’t changed. The Yankees lineup is basically set. These are the guys they’ve brought in to do the job — and aside from Carlos Beltran, and occasionally Mark Teixeira — the lineup has actually been pretty healthy. It just hasn’t been able to score with any sort of consistency.
Shuffle the lineup, maybe?
“Gardner’s been pretty good in the 1-slot,” Girardi said. “Ellsbury’s done a pretty good job in the 3slot — we’ve been forced to (hit him there) because of some of the things that have happened physically here. And you can think about putting him 1, but then where do you put Gardner? Then where do you put Jeter? Those three guys have been our most consistent hitters all year, and you definitely don’t want to lefties back to back.
“… These guys, they work at it every day. They work at getting better every day, and it’s just not happening.”
Carlos Beltran got his third cortisone shot of the year in his right elbow. I honestly didn’t think guys were allowed to get more than two in a year, but apparently I was wrong. He said the soreness yesterday wasn’t nearly as bad as when he initially felt the bone spur, but it was worse than it had been since he came off the disabled list.
“I’ve been feeling pain once in a while,” Beltran said. “But what I was feeling yesterday was very sharp. I just felt that, talking to the doctor, it probably could be that the previous cortisone (shots) probably are wearing out. It is what it is.”
Beltran said he knows he won’t play tomorrow, but he does want to swing a bat tomorrow. He believes, and hopes, that he could be back in the lineup on Friday. Girardi called him day-to-day. Beltran said it never bothered him in the field, only when he was hitting.
“(The doctor) didn’t recommend any tests,” Beltran said. “He said that the issue is there, so at the end of the year, I have to address it and get the surgery to get it over with. Right now, I’m just trying to finish the season.”
• One more quick injury update: Girardi announced postgame that David Phelps will come back as a starter. The team apparently prefers to get him back quicker rather than waiting for him to be stretched out as a starter.
• Speaking of the bullpen: Dellin Betances was not available tonight, but Girardi felt like he could use Shawn Kelley for one inning and Dave Robertson for one inning if it was a save situation. He was saving those two for the eighth and the ninth. Esmil Rogers came into the game when he did, basically, because Girardi chose Rogers over Adam Warren.
• Why Rogers? I would say mostly because Warren has struggled lately, but also… “Rogers has thrown the ball really well for us so I was going to go for him,” Girardi said.
• It’s worth noting that David Huff actually retired the one lefty he faced. He stayed in to face a right-hander, and that that guy who got a hit off him. After that, Rogers let the Astros take the lead by allowing four straight singles on just six pitches. It happened very quickly.
• Immediately before the Stephen Drew home run in the fourth, Chase Headley was caught stealing. It wasn’t a hit-and-run, just a green light gone wrong. “I gave him the green light in that situation,” Girardi said. “And we have an understanding, ‘If you feel (like you can make it), take a pitch (and run).’ He’s not going to run crazy, he’s not going to run all the time. He picked the right pitch to go and got thrown out.”
• The other Yankees run came on a two-out bunt by Jacoby Ellsbury, who was bunting on his own in that situation. Girardi did not call for a squeeze. Ichiro Suzuki was at third and took off as soon as the bunt was laid down the third-base line. It really was an awfully good bunt.
• The Yankees stole four bases tonight, tying their season-high. They’d done it twice before this season, each time against Toronto.
• One bright spot: Michael Pineda. In his second game off the disabled list, Pineda allowed just one run through six innings, but he was ultimately charged with two runs after he put the leadoff man on in the seventh. “He was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he got a little tired at the end. But that’s to be expected. We pushed him a little bit but I thought he gave us a really good performance.”
• Pineda said he felt strong and still had energy at the end, but acknowledged it’s never his call whether to stay in or come out of a game. He’d thrown 89 pitches. Last time out, he threw 67. “Being off for so long, it’s one of those things,” Brian McCann said. “He was cruising. So I thought it looked great.”
• Might have noticed Pineda moving around a bunch on the mound, including some motions that looked as if he was stretching out his arm. Pineda said those movements were just his normal quirks during a game, and we have seen a lot of that from him. He said his shoulder felt fine.
• McCann on Pineda: “Fastball in and out. When he’s got his slider down for strikes, mixing a changeup in there every once in while, he creates such a tough angle to square things up. … (His changeup) almost acts like a split to be honest with you. He throws it 88 to 90, and it’s got good tilt on it. It’s got really good action, and if he’s on the bump for a little bit, it can be a really really good pitch.”
• Final word to Gardner: “We gave Jacoby a chance to tie it up, he’s one of our best hitters, and Jeter and I were able to get on with two outs and give him a chance. It’s obviously tough down three runs in the ninth inning, but we did make it interesting. It’s good to see that we kept fighting, and obviously every lost is a tough loss. This is tough we had a lead and gave it up. Got to move past it and come out and win tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos