Dog Days for Slumping Yankees
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK (SPORTS)- There is no panic in that New York Yankees clubhouse and the manager Joe Girardi will not say there is. However, there is a sense the Yankees are in this panic mode after losing two out three to the Houston Astros and three of four to the Cleveland Indians on a homestand that concluded Wednesday afternoon in the Bronx.
Wednesday they looked flat at the plate against a scrappy first place Astros’ team. The Yankees were outscored, 21-3 the last two days and could only get five hits in the series finale loss to Houston. They left the Bronx a quiet ballclub as they try and regroup to end August with three games at Atlanta, and three up in Boston.
Two teams, the Braves and Red Sox are gearing for next year. They have nothing to play for and the Yankees need to win a good amount of those games if they want to overtake Toronto for the division lead. Again, the Yankees want to win the division and not be one of the AL wild card teams but the way things have been going as of late even the wild card is becoming a question.
Flat at the plate may be the word, or the long grind of a 162-game schedule has caught up to a ballclub of veterans who may have been expected to suddenly stop hitting and now face the music.
Once the 40-year-old Alex Rodriguez appeared to be having an MVP season, the comeback player of the year. And one can say it was expected that time would take a toll, as A-Rod went 0-for-4 Wednesday and struck out two more times. The fastball all of a sudden has been difficult to reach for Rodriguez who is 9-for his last 71, a .126 average
All of a sudden the designated hitter spot for A-Rod, and staying off the field at third base is not making manager Joe Girardi look like a baseball guru. It worked before the all-star break, but in the month of August part of the reason the Yankees are not scoring runs, and not winning is the lack of production coming from that DH spot in the lineup.
Then there is Mark Teixeira. Also a part of that run producing lineup in the first half of the season, and a catalyst that put the Yankees as one of the top run producing teams in the major leagues, Teixeira has quickly diminished his chances of being an American League MVP candidate.
Teixeira has not played much eight of the last nine games with an injured shin. Take his once hot bat out of the lineup, and in the cleanup spot, add that up with the lack of production from Rodriguez in the third spot, and of course the decline is evident.
And if Carlos Beltran did not have a hot bat, extending his hitting streak to 10 games with one of the five hits, it could be worse. Beltran had that slow start and is batting .338, scored 11-runs, with seven doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI, in his last 21 games.
Go figure the game of baseball, which also during the grind of a long season has to account for ups and downs, and the injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup again with a bruise from missing a sliding catch Tuesday night, and there is hope he returns to the lineup down in Atlanta.
Brett Gardner is hitting .104 in the month of August, and bats second after Ellsbury. The table setters are once again down for the count, and for the Yankees that holds significance.
“We are just not hitting,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. That’s kind of been the root of our problems.”
And when good pitching faces the Yankees, well not getting the hits or walks is the problem. The Astros’ pitching staff has allowed two or runs fewer in a franchise record nine consecutive games They held the Yankees to a double, a home run, and four runs, a .165 average in the four games.
Yes it was Dallas Keuchel (15-6) Tuesday night and Colin McHugh (14-7) Wednesday afternoon, a combined 29 wins between the two, and the most wins of any pair of teammates in the majors that shut down the Yankees.
That is only part of the equation, because Girardi and the Yankees have also seen the starting pitching fall apart, and that is happening at the same time when the hitting has gone foul. Michael Pineda was reinstated from the disabled list and took the loss Wednesday with 4.1 innings on six hits and five runs,
But the Yankees, also without starter CC Sabathia for an extended period of time, and with an ineffective Ivan Nova on the mound, well they refuse to say there is panic in their quarters.
“We did face the number one pitching team in the American League,” Girardi said about his team and the inability to hit and score runs. And the explanation from Gardner, an old baseball axiom was, “It is contagious.”
It was quiet in that Yankees’ postgame sanctuary of a locker room. No loud music, or much talking. In fact A-Rod was nowhere to be found. Teixeira said he will rest again for the first game Friday down in Atlanta but said it has been a tough stretch of games, 16 straight before an off day and that may be attributed to this sudden lack of offense again
Or is it that grind and the end of August that has caught up with the aging Yankees of Rodriguez and Teixeira?
“The energy is fine,” Teixeira said. “We just have not been swinging the bats. We went through a really great stretch for a while and now we are going through a tough stretch and hopefully we will get hot again.”.
And with the way Toronto keeps winning, and the Blue Jays appear to be going through a good stretch, the Yankees will have to get that energy going again and real soon.
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