So much for taking advantage of a soft spot in the schedule. The Yankees lost Wednesday night’s series finale against the Rangers by the score of 3-2, dropping two of three in Texas to the team with the worst record in baseball.
For the first time since June 2012, Colby Lewis completed seven full innings of work. He retired the final 13 (!) batters he faced and held the Yankees to two runs — solo homers by noted power threats Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury — on four hits and two walks in those seven innings, striking out four. The Yankees actually loaded the bases in the first inning, but of course they couldn’t capitalize. I swear, they must lead the league in first inning runners left on base. It would be nice if they blew a game open early once in a while.
Anyway, Carlos Beltran‘s two-out single to left in the third inning was the Yankees’ finally base-runner of the night. Chase Headley followed that with a hard-hit fly ball right to the wall in right field — I thought it was gone off the bat — but Alex Rios was able to run it down for the third out of the inning. Headley went hitless for the first time in pinstripes but he did draw a walk. After Beltran’s single, exactly six Yankees hit the ball out of the infield. The final 19 men they sent to the plate made outs. The only good thing about this offense is that the games are usually over in under three hours.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched just well enough to lose. I feel like that is a bit of a running theme this year thanks to the offense. Kuroda left far too many pitches up in the zone in the three-run first inning, which featured four singles and a double, but followed with six more scoreless frames to spare the bullpen. Three runs in seven innings on nine hits and a walk isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, especially since he never really seemed to be in control of his stuff, but it isn’t a disaster. It’s the type of start a good team would win.
Kuroda spared the bullpen after that dreadfully long game on Tuesday night, which was appreciated even with the off-day coming on Thursday. Getting those guys two straight days of rest this time of year is a big deal. David Huff issued two walks in an otherwise uneventful eighth inning and was the only reliever used. I’m not sure what else the pitching staff is supposed to do. These guys are giving the team a chance to win almost every night despite all the injuries. Something has to give at some point.
Mark Teixeira contributed to the first inning damage with a boneheaded play. He simply let a Leonys Martin ground ball roll foul rather than pick it up and tag Martin as he ran by for the final out of the inning. That would have limited the damage to two runs. Instead, the at-bat was extended and Martin eventually blooped a single to left to plate his team’s third run.
The Yankees’ four hits came from Gardner (homer), Ellsbury (homer!), and Beltran (two singles). Teixeira and Headley drew the only walks. The bottom three hitters in the lineup (Frankie Cervelli, Zoilo Almonte, Brendan Ryan) went a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts. Cervelli’s ground out with the bases loaded to end the first was their only at-bat with runners in scoring position on the night. Pitchers like Lewis, a guy with a 6+ ERA, used to be like bugs hitting a windshield whenever they faced the Yankees. Now they throw up quality starts.
Gardner’s homer was another leadoff job, his fourth of the season. It was also his fourth homer in the span of ten plate appearances and seventh (!) in July, or the same number of homers Robinson Cano has hit all season. The Yankees have now hit multiple homers in each of their last six games. I didn’t think they had that in them. It is their longest such streak since a nine-gamer in May 2009. They topped out at four games last year.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and video highlights can be found at MLB.com. FanGraphs has some more game stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Blue Jays and Orioles both won, so the Yankees are now 5.5 games back of the top spot in the AL East and three games back of the second wildcard spot, tied with the Mariners. They’ve lost four of five after winning seven of their first eight games out of the All-Star break. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 13.5%.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and they’ll head up to Boston to open a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday night. Pretty good chance both teams will look a little different by then, especially the Sawx. Chris Capuano vs. John Lackey is the scheduled pitching matchup at the moment, but the Yankees are looking for a rotation upgrade and Lackey’s name has been in all sorts of trade rumors the last 24 hours or so. The trade deadline is 4pm ET on Thursday and I suspect both clubs will do something.