Joke, just a stinking joke how poorly this team is playing lately, especially offensively and defensively. The pitching has been decent or better, especially the bullpen. Yet this team so rarely has the lead, so rarely delivers with RISP, and so often gives away bases and opportunities to opponents. Tonight was no different as the defense did Wang no favors in the third, he exacerbated the issue by allowing a two-out rally to fester, and the offense continuously failed to score as the Yanks dropped a weak, 4-0 effort in Atlanta. As much as anything, I feel bad for Mike and the Lehigh Valley Yankee Fan Club, who had to sit through that wretch.
As in recent years past, the Yanks are not hitting as a team. Worse, they’ve giving off the vibe–or better yet stench–that when they fail to score in early innings, they will falter, get behind, and not come back. This, mind you, is from the same team that exhibited such elan and persistence thus far this year, making this recent funk all the more maddening. To wit, the Yanks left the bases loaded in the top of the second with Wang’s easy grounder back to the mound. OK, chalk that up to the flat-earth approach to specialized baseball that is the NL’s continued insistence upon letting pitchers hit. But in the third, the Yanks really blew it. Jeter led off with a smoked double that could have been a triple, but he had to hold up as Anderson, who awakens like a vampire when he plays the Yankees, made a strong relay (over-)throw to hold him. That was Jeter’s 425th career double, passing Babe Ruth for fourth on the Yankees’ all-time list. Swish grounded out on a 1-3, which hurt for Jeter couldn’t advance. Teixeira walked not unintentionally on four pitches to face the flailing A-Rod, who wanly fanned on three pitches as Jeter and Teixeira stole third and second, respectively. Then Cano swung at the first pitch, flying out to left, hastily ending the rally that Swish and A-Rod also impaired. I know that Cano is a .423 first-pitch hitter. Yet there are times when patience matters, when pressuring the pitcher through patience matters.
In the bottom half, the Yanks got behind and never recovered. With two outs and the count 0-2, Escobar singled on a ball A-Rod really should have had. He stole second, and Jorge launched a throw into center field from his knees even though a decent throw would have nailed him, giving Escobar third. Chipper walked, McCann doubled to left center, 1-0, and Anderson the Yankee killer doubled to right center to make it 3-0. That really was Wang’s lone bad inning, for although he also avoided trouble in the second, thanks to a nice cover at first by Cano on a chopper that Wang and Teixeira both chased, he wasn’t severely tested after that.
The Yanks blew it again in the fourth when Melky doubled with one out, Brett the Jet hit one into the hole and Chipper dropped what would have been a sure out on Melky at third, giving the Yanks runners at the corners with one out. Wang bunted The Jet to second for the second out, acceptable considering his travails in Houston last June. Jeter had a good at-bat to walk the bases loaded but, like Cano the inning before, Swish swung at the first pitch and grounded into a force. Through the first four innings, the Yanks stranded eight.
The Yanks produced more unrequited moments in the sixth when Brett the Jet singled with one out, stole second during Matsui’s pinch-hit at-bat for Wang, Matsui walked for Jeter, who promptly hit into a DP, his eighth of this year. After Hughes pitched two stellar innings, getting some help from Teixeira who made a sterling play at first to handle a tough hop on McLouth’s hard grounder for a nice 3-1, Robertson surrendered a solo shot to McCann in the bottom of the eighth to put the game fully out of reach. 4-0 Braves.
Posada earned the ignominious golden sombrero for his 4 K “performance.” I know he’s been much, and unfairly, maligned lately for his game calling lately, and I know he’s far from the only Yankee not hitting. But Jorge was nothing if not fully emblematic of the Yanks’ struggles of late–futile at the plate, feckless in the field. The entire Yanks’ offense was, as the great Canadian alternative band The Lowest of the Low sing, “like watching murder through your fingers at the theater.” Four hits, six walks, and practically everyone stranded–except for those erased by DP, 0-8 with RISP stranding 11. That’s grotesque.
On the whole, Wang was pretty decent, surrendering three runs earned on six hits, a walk,and 4 K’s in 5 IP on only 62 pitches/42 strikes. Girardi rightly pinch-hit for him in the top of the sixth because of the team’s offensive paucity, but in an AL game, Wang would have stayed in for more work. He seemed to get flustered in the third after the defense let him down, but in all wasn’t bad. Hughes was again terrific in relief, pitching two perfect innings in relief. It was good to see him hitting 95 and 96 on the gun, with a jump in velocity from some shorter stints, no doubt. Robertson, who has been very good lately, coughed up the homer to McCann, but did it really matter at that point? Not really. The offense has sucked rotten eggs.
Frank the Sage is chewing the fat on the horn right now, espousing firing Girardi. I’m not sure about that yet, but this uninspired ball is a joke, and some of that falls on the manager. They’re 2-5 the last week against sub-.500 teams that they should be decimating. They look foolish right now, and more than just at the plate. The defense has been bad as well. It goes beyond the fact that they are playing poorly. They’re looking indifferent to their own fate right now, and that falls on management, bloated payroll or no. Funny how people clamored for Torre to accept a contract with an incentive-laden salary because Torre allegedly needed to be motivated for the Yanks to make the playoffs. If so, what is Girardi’s excuse? Again, this is primarily a failure on the part of the players. But how is Girardi reversing this precipitous slide? Toronto won, Boston is trouncing a DC bullpen that somehow baffled the Yanks, and New York will end tonight five behind Boston and tied for second, during the very stretch of the schedule tailor-made for the team to make hay and challenge for first. Instead, they’ve faltered badly. It goes beyond needing some advanced scouting to provide the offense and Kevin Long some extra eyes. This team is on the verge of yet again falling off the pace in the intensely competitive AL East, with all that payroll, all those necessary additions to the rotation and lineup.
I’m not big on firing a manager in June. This team has 92 games left, and lots of talent to straighten this out. Yet I can’t be told that Girardi doesn’t have more heat on him after this swoon. Nor can I be told that it isn’t justified. It is.