“That’s a game that we need to win,” said an agitated Joe Girardi following yesterday’s loss. “It’s not what we wanted, and we need to play better. We need to go home and play well. Start winning series. Tying series is not good enough. We need to start winning series.”
As surprising as it may be, the Yankees haven’t won a series since going to Cleveland at the end of July. They’ve since been beaten in three game sets by the Rays and Blue Jays while splitting against the Red Sox, Rangers, and Royals, so Girardi’s absolutely right. The Yanks aren’t going to be able to coast the rest of the way at a .500 clip in this division, so winning series is absolutely imperitave.
As ugly as the end of last week’s road trip was, let’s not forget how close the games actually were. The Yanks lost three of the six games in Texas and Kansas City, and all three of them were decided by just one run. The opening game against the Rangers went into extra innings after the Yanks tied the game on an Alex Rodriguez homerun in the 8th, but they only lost on a rare Mariano Rivera meltdown. Except it wasn’t much of a meltdown. Michael Young barely beat out Derek Jeter‘s throw to lead off the 10th inning on an infield single, and Josh Hamilton followed that up with a seeing eye single through the right side that was just beyond the reach of a diving Robinson Cano. A-Rod helped record the first out when he managed to get to Vlad Guerrero’s would-be seeing eye single, and the only hard hit ball in the inning was David Murphy’s eventual game winning single to shallow right.
The second loss of the road trip was that rain game against the Royals, when Billy Butler hit the go-ahead homerun off the bottom of the foul pole in the 5th inning before a two-plus hour long rain delay. If the umps don’t let them play for 29 minutes between delays and instead keep the tarp on the field, things may have played out differently. Yesterday’s loss is fresh in everyone’s head, a 1-0 defeat when A.J. Burnett threw eight strong innings and allowed the lone run to score only after a two-base throwing error by the great Frankie Cervelli. Frustrating losses, all three of them for sure, but hardly season halting defeats that exposed fatal flaws. In fact, if you go back to the Red Sox series, the Yankees last four losses have been by one run*. That game against Jon Lester is the one where Brett Gardner seemingly refused to try to steal second after pinch-running for A-Rod in the bottom of the 8th until it was too late.
* Perhaps all this one-run business is just a statistical correction. After playing just 12 one-run games in the first half (basically one out of every seven games), the Yanks have already played ten one-run games in the second half (one out of every three games).
So that’s four straight losses in which the Yankees were no more than one swing away from tying the game, if not taking the lead. On the bright side, keep in mind that with the exception of Mo’s meltdown, the bullpen allowed just six hits in 13.2 innings while striking out 13 during the road trip. Derek Jeter reached base nine times in four games. A-Rod hit four homers and was within maybe three feet of a fifth. Curtis Granderson was demonstrably better at hitting the ball to the opposite field with authority after working with Kevin Long. Lance Berkman, Marcus Thames, and Austin Kearns reached base a combined 19 times during the trip.
The Yankees absolutely had to do better than split a four game series with the Royals when Zack Greinke never touched the mound, no one is arguing that. They didn’t, so we have to move on. The Tigers are coming into the Bronx to start a four game set tonight, and they’re a whopping 9-22 since the All Star break. Justin Verlander starts tomorrow but matches up against CC Sabathia. Jose Valverde is day-to-day with a strained oblique and Phil Coke – Phil Coke! – is Detroit’s de facto closer. Miguel Cabrera is a hitting marvel, but Carlos Guillen (.174 wOBA), Brennan Boesch (.146), Austin Jackson (.255), and Johnny Damon (.260) have all been dreadful this month.
Point being, the Yanks have a chance to turn things right around with this seven game homestand that will bring the woeful Mariners to town after the Tigers depart. We fans can sit and let the frustrations of last week fester, but the players and coaching staff are looking ahead and looking forward to getting this train back on track.