As he sat in front of his locker postgame, I really doubt Brett Gardner expected to stand up and give essentially an end-of-the-season address, but that’s exactly what happened. A crowd of reporters gathered around, asked just a handful of questions, and Gardner put words to all that’s left the Yankees six games out of the second wild card with 13 to play.
“I feel like things have been slipping away for a few weeks,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I haven’t looked at the standings the last couple of days because at this point they don’t really matter. We’ve got to win every day. Until we’re five, six, seven games out with five, six, seven games to go and eliminated, I’m still going to hold out hope, and I still believe in the group of guys we have here. I still come to work every day and play hard, but like I said, we’re not in a good spot right now, and it’s a shame because our pitchers have really stepped up the last couple of months and done a good job. As an offense, we haven’t.”
It’s true. Even speaking to Shawn Kelley, who had a rough ninth inning and allowed the walk-off single, it was basically impossible to hang this loss on his shoulders. The bullpen’s had a bit of a rough time lately, but who could blame them? They’ve been trying to preserve tiny leads for nearly six months now.
“As well as we’ve pitched, we didn’t need to be great (offensively),” Gardner said. “We just needed to be good. And we haven’t been.”
The Yankees were shutout for the 10th time this season. But it’s more telling that they were shutout for the fourth time in the past 11 games and for the fifth time in the past 16 games.
“You feel like you’re due at some point,” Gardner said. “I don’t feel like it’s been a couple of games. I feel like it’s been pretty much all season. We’ve had flashes of being pretty good, but for the most part, we’ve just struggled to get guys across the plate. It’s frustrating because, with all the injuries we had to our rotation, the guys that have come up and come in from other places have really stepped up and done a great job, pitched really well and kept us in the ballgame. Just like tonight, all we needed to get was just one or two runs and we couldn’t even get that. It’s just really frustrating. Guys are working really hard. Guys are trying. Guys are putting in the effort. For one reason or another, we’re just not getting it done.”
Last year, the team’s offensive problems were easy to dismiss as a product of overwhelming injury problems. Not this year. There have been injuries, sure, but the truly devastating blows haven’t hurt the lineup.
“The bulk of our injuries have been to our rotation,” Gardner said. “And down the stretch here, our pitching and our rotation has been our strength. As a position player, as a hitter, it makes it a lot tougher to feel like you … you feel like you’re not picking them up. You’re not getting the job done.”
• As if anyone needed official confirmation: The Yankees were eliminated from the American League East tonight.
• Most explosive thing any Yankees hitter did today was Chase Headley getting ejected one pitch into his seventh-inning at-bat. Headley had a problem with a low strike called by home-place umpire Marty Foster, and his disagreement turned into a rather lengthy back-and-forth between player and umpire. At one point Foster took off his mask to snap back at Headley, and as Headley was getting back in the box to continue his at-bat, Foster threw him out of the game. “There was a conversation before it happened which I thought was fairly mild tempered,” Headley said. “I thought that he was an aggressor towards me. I told him to calm down and he kept yelling at me. I said I didn’t appreciate that.”
• More Headley: “I didn’t think what I said to him warranted the response that I got, and it just kept going. I think more than the balls and strikes was just the reaction that I got from him was not in any way comparable to how I was speaking to him. So that’s basically what happened. I’m not going to get into too much more specific about that. Yeah there was disagreements about the pitches but that’s not where it ended up.”
• It seems Headley’s problems with Foster started from his very first at-bat. “The borderline ones you can live with,” Headley said. “But the first pitch of the game, I come in, got hit with 97 in the mouth (last week), and the first pitch I see is 95 at my ribs. Then he calls a changeup a foot off the plate and it’s like, c’mon. It kind of started me off on the wrong foot. The borderline ones you live with but when there’s a pitch that should not be missed, ever, I think that’s when as a player you get a little bit more upset.”
• Girardi on the Headley ejection: “It’s one thing if you’re arguing, you’re going back and forth and showing him up, but these games mean something. It’s a shame. He questioned some strikes. Hitters should be allowed to do that. We should be allowed to do that. At some point, it would be nice if umpires said, ‘If you say another thing, you’re gone.’ You can do that. If he barks and you bark back; it wasn’t like a whole lot of people knew what was going on. It’s frustrating to me.”
• The Yankees have lost four of their past five games. Of those four losses, one was credited to Dave Robertson, one to Adam Warren, and tonight’s to Shawn Kelley. That’s a rough stretch for a bullpen that’s been terrific nearly all year. “Every time we pitch the game’s on the line,” Kelley said. “But I’ve got to go out there and put up a zero whether it’s nothing-nothing or it’s 10-nothing. … You pitch a lot of games out of the bullpen, and that’s just part of the game. We’re all in great shape, we’ve all prepared for this, and I don’t think it’s fatigue. ”
• Girardi is usually pretty strict with his rules about managing reliever workload, but playing so many low-scoring games this season has essentially forced him to use his go-to guys a lot. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Girardi said. “You look at the games we’ve lost 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 or whatever, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room. They’re not going to be perfect. They’ve been really, really good, but they’re not going to be perfect.”
• I honestly felt bad, but not a single reporter interviewed Chris Capuano postgame. He just wasn’t the story. Really nice bounce-back start for him — coming off that one-out performance last week, he went six scoreless tonight — but a strong pitching performance just isn’t anything new and doesn’t carry much weight at this point. The Yankees are all about their failing offense. Great start for Capuano, just didn’t feel the need to hear what he had to say about it.
• Last Yankees starter to throw at least six scoreless innings on two hits or less and not earn a win was Freddy Garcia back in 2011. Capuano has only five decisions in his past 18 career starts dating back to last season.
• Didn’t mean much in the end, but Gardner said he and Jacoby Ellsbury called for that dropped fly ball at the exact same time. “We just kind of ran into one another a little bit, and I wasn’t able to hold onto it,” Gardner said. “But Cap made a couple of good pitches after that and was able to pick me up. Didn’t end up hurting us today, we just, same story. Been pitching really well, but it’s just been hard for us to score runs.”
• This was the fifth time a Yankees player was ejected this season. Gardner, Kelley, Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral were previously thrown out of games.
• Final word to Girardi: “We’re just not hitting. For whatever reason, we’re not hitting. I think we’ve scored six runs on this road trip, lost three games in the last inning, in the bottom of the inning. It’s frustrating. Eventually I think it’s got to turn, but it better turn pretty quickly here.”
Associated Press photos