For the first time this season, the Yankees have lost five straight games. The Rays took Wednesday afternoon’s series finale by the score of 6-3, completing the sweep. They had baseball’s worst record coming into the series. The Yankees have now lost nine of their last eleven games are are 41-42 on the year. Stinky.
For the first time in what felt like an eternity, the Yankees actually jumped out to an early lead on Wednesday afternoon. Brett Gardner opened the day with a typically long at-bat (seven pitches) and a leadoff homer into the right field second deck off Jake Odorizzi. It was gone off the bat. No doubter. Gardner has now hit eight homers this season, tying his career-high (set last year). He’s going to wind up hitting like 12-15 dingers this summer. Crazy.
Brian McCann chipped in a solo homer of his own two innings later, a cheap little New Yankee Stadium shot just inside the foul pole down the right field line. It was a high pop-up in almost every other ballpark. Like everyone else, I expected Gardner to be hitting the cheapies and McCann to be launching bombs into the second deck coming into the year. Also, believe it or not, the Yankees have hit multiple homers in four of their last eight games. Doesn’t feel like it, right?
One inning after that, the wholly unproductive right field platoon of Alfonso Soriano (single) and Ichiro Suzuki (walk) reached base to start the inning. Soriano was in right and Ichiro was playing center. Brian Roberts lined out and Yangervis Solarte popped out, so it appeared any potential rally would go to waste. Been an awful lot of that this year. Thankfully Gardner was up next and thankfully he pulled a two-strike single through the right side of the infield to score Soriano. Brett has been the best player on the team this season and I don’t think it’s particularly close at this point.
No Lead Is Safe
The Yankees took the lead three times early in the game and Vidal Nuno gave it back almost immediately each time. The Rays scored their first run in the third inning on a leadoff walk (Ryan Hanigan), a double (Ben Zobrist), and a passed ball. They scored their second run in the fourth inning, right after McCann homered. A double by Logan Forsythe and a single by Sean Rodriguez did the trick. In the fifth — again, right after Gardner re-gave the Yankees the lead — Desmond Jennings, Zobrist, and Brandon Guyer strung together a single, a double, and a single to score another run. Guyer would have had a two-run single had Gardner not thrown Zobrist out at the plate.
All told, Nuno was charged with four runs (three earned) in five innings of work. Joe Girardi opted to send him back out to start the sixth only to yank him when the leadoff runner reached base. I hate that. If his leash is one base-runner, then just let the reliever start the inning clean. This isn’t Masahiro Tanaka. It’s Vidal Nuno and he was putting guys on base all day. Shawn Kelley took over and allowed a two-run homer to Sean freaking Rodriguez on his third pitch. Just like that, the Rays were up 5-3 and had all the runs they would need on the afternoon.
I mean, it’s no surprise Nuno did not carry his success against the Red Sox over from his last start. Everyone has a great game now and then and it doesn’t mean they’ve turned some kind of corner. Four runs (three earned) in five innings is perfectly fine from your seventh (or eighth? whatever) starter, though Nuno is third on the team in starts (14) and innings (78). That’s not good. Kelley … good grief. He has been a mess since coming off the disabled list.
Not Hitting With Runners In Scoring Position Isn’t The Problem …
… bad hitters are the problem. The Yankees went one-for-whatever (nine, actually) with runners in scoring position and stranded runners at the corners in the fifth, at first and second in the seventh, and at second in the eighth. There were some chances to tack-on runs or make the game closer, but they were unable to take advantage. Gardner’s run-scoring single in the fourth was the lone hit with men in scoring position. He had three hits while McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Roberts had two apiece as well. McCann and Ichiro drew the only walks.
The Yankees have been unable to get hits with men on base all season but that in and of itself isn’t the problem. It’s just the symptom of the real problem. They aren’t unclutch or anything silly like that. They just have too many bad hitters. That’s the problem. Even if McCann and Beltran start hitting like everyone expected them to hit, the Yankees would still have Derek Jeter, Roberts, Ichiro, Soriano, Solarte, Kelly Johnson, etc. getting regular at-bats. It’s pretty remarkable how many flat-out bad hitters are on the roster and have been all season.
The Rays made four outs on the bases. Gardner threw Zobrist out at home, Soriano threw Rodriguez out at second trying to stretch a single into a double (on the play that scored Tampa’s second run), Jeter caught Zobrist wandering too far off second base on a ground ball in the seventh, and Kevin Kiermaier was picked off first in the eighth. The Gardner and Soriano throws were good plays, the other two were gifts.
Adam Warren allowed two singles (one infield) and a walk in 1.1 innings of work. He was helped out by Zobrist’s second base-running blunder. David Huff allowed one run in 1.2 innings of mop-up duty. He was hurt by some shaky infield defense. Guyer hit a slow grounder to third that Solarte threw into right field attempting to turn the 5-4-3 double play. Somehow it was ruled it hit. What?
Michael Kay went on a pretty amusing rant about Jacoby Ellsbury‘s off-day in the first inning. He pointed out that it was Lou Gehrig bobblehead day and basically said that if Gehrig could play every single day, Ellsbury should be able to do it in the first year of his seven-year contract. It was a hoot.
According to the YES broadcast, the Yankees are now 1-32 when allowing five or more runs. This is the latest into the season the Yankees have been below .500 since they were 39-42 at the halfway point of the 2007 season. That team rallied to win the wildcard and make the postseason. That team also had good players.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score and video highlights at MLB.com. There are some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings at ESPN. Edwin Encarnacion and the Blue Jays walked off against the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, so the Yankees are now 4.5 games back of Toronto for first place in the AL East. The Mariners beat up on the Astros, so the Bombers are five games back of the second wildcard spot.
The homestand is mercifully over and the Yankees are heading up to Minnesota for a four-game series with the Twins. Current Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka and one time projected Yankees ace Phil Hughes start things off on Friday night.