If a five-game winning streak is going to end, it might as well end like this. There was no one play that made the difference. No one player let them down. The Yankees simple did not pitch very well, didn’t hit very well, and they got beat by a pretty good Tigers team.
If the past five games were a reminder of how good the Yankees can be, tonight was a reminder of why they’re currently on the outside looking in for both the wild card and the division.
“We’re a team that, we play every day to win,” Brian McCann said. “We’re going to show up tomorrow and expect to win a ballgame.”
Make no mistake, the Yankees expected to win this one. Their offense looked pretty good last night, and they had arguably their top starting pitcher on the mound. That seemed like a good combination for a team that was riding a little bit of momentum. But it was clear in the second inning — when the usually in-command Brandon McCarthy hit a batter and walked two more, including the No. 9 hitter with the bases loaded — that the Yankees starter was off his game.
“I had the runners on because I wasn’t in a groove,” McCarthy said. “I just never felt settled in, never felt comfortable mechanically there. I wasn’t sharp right from the get-go. The middle few innings where I was able to work quickly, it felt like it was getting there, but it just wasn’t all the way back. It was just kind of a battle right from the start.”
On a night when the Yankees scored just two runs, it’s impossible to pin this loss entirely on McCarthy, but he did have his worst start since coming to the Yankees early last month. McCann said he thought the ball was coming out just fine, but McCarthy said he never felt it. He just didn’t have it tonight.
And too often this season, the Yankees offense has been unable to pick up a pitcher who inevitably just doesn’t have it.
“It sucks because as we get closer to the end, all of them become important,” McCarthy said. “I’ve thrown well enough to get through outings where I haven’t been as sharp, and today that’s the disappointment. I’d like to be able to fight back. You know days like this you’re going to give up some runs, especially against a good team like that. You’d like to be able to limit it a little bit more.”
Or make up for it a little bit more.
• I know it’s frustrating for fans when teams start tipping their caps to opposing starters — especially when the team in question has consistently struggled to find enough offense — but Rick Porcello’s having a great year, and he kept the Yankees from making any sort of hard contact outside of the two Jacoby Ellsbury home runs. Porcello only struck out two, but he walked none and seven of his nine hits were singles. “I actually thought we swung the bats pretty decent,” Joe Girardi said. “We had nine hits off him. It’s hard to elevate the ball on him, so you’re going to see singles. You have to put a lot of singles together in the course of an inning to score runs. That’s what he’s so good at, being a sinkerballer.”
• Ellsbury was the exception to the rule. His two home runs gave him 13 for the year. He had three of the Yankees nine hits. He’s hit a home run in three of his past five plate appearances. “The stuff I’ve been doing before the games is basically the same stuff I was doing before (in) the season, throughout the season,” Ellsbury said. “But it’s nice to hit the ball hard and get results.”
• Ellsbury is 11-for-17 with a double and four home runs in his career against Porcello. “I can’t really explain it,” he said. “I mean I guess I got a couple of pitches I could hit and I didn’t miss them.”
• Otherwise, the Yankees didn’t have many chances. They were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base. They hit into two double plays.
• A positive sign for the offense: Brett Gardner said he did some short sprints inside today and felt pretty good. He’s hopeful that he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night.
• A positive sign for the rotation: Masahiro Tanaka’s bullpen went just fine today, he felt fine afterward, and Girardi said he expects Tanaka to stay on course for Thursday’s sim game.
• What was McCarthy thinking in that second inning, when he walked two and hit a batter? “It’s just a matter of, figure this out really quickly,” he said. “I just felt really out of sync that inning. Threw a good pitch to end the inning. From that point on, I at least felt a little bit better, a little bit closer. There were just those little crisp finish on pitches weren’t there, and a couple of situations with runners on where I’ve got to be sharper. Those pitches just ventured too much over the plate.”
• Did McCann notice McCarthy’s mechanical mistakes in that second inning? “I didn’t,” McCann said. “It was coming out really good. He was just missing by, we’re talking inches. He fell behind. That’s the only inning that he lost command. … I thought he threw the ball well. I thought his stuff was there. I thought he threw the ball way better than his line. I didn’t think he pitched bad tonight.”
• Final word goes to McCarthy: “I just felt like one of those days where you’re not as sharp mechanically, you’re not as locked in as you’d like to be, where your arm is always where you’d expect it to be when the ball goes where you want. Days like that, when there’s a little bit of guesswork — where’s this pitch going to end up? — they happen. You just wish they didn’t happen against good teams like this.”
Associated Press photos