Bats come alive, but Yanks drop 5th straight

On a night when the Yankees showed encouraging signs of breaking out of their offensive malaise, their pitchers were responsible for another loss that completed a three-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park and extended the losing streak to a season-high five games.

The 8-7 final marked the first time in eight games that the Yankees scored more than three runs in a game and only the sixth time in 23 games this year. They were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and totaled five extra-base hits, including career home run No. 692 for Alex Rodriguez, who has recovered quite nicely from that tweaked oblique last week. After missing two games, A-Rod has batted .429 with four runs, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 14 at-bats.

Sunday night’s game was a reversal for the Yankees in that the sluggish offense was not the culprit in a defeat. For the second time in three nights, Dellin Betances gave up a two-run home run in a late inning that supplied the deciding run. Friday night it was David Ortiz’s blast in the eighth on a first-pitch curveball. Sunday night, it was a monster shot to left field that went entirely out of the park by Christian Vazquez on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh.

Betances shouldered the blame for both games, but he certainly was not alone. Starter Nathan Eovaldi, who flirted with a no-hitter in his previous outing, surrendered leads of 3-1 and 6-4 in the bottom half of the innings in which the Yankees had gone ahead. Eovaldi was back to his old ways in giving up 10 hits in five-plus innings.

The loss was charged to Ivan Nova (1-1), who replaced Eovaldi in the sixth after a leadoff walk. Travis Shaw, who clocked a game-tying, two-run home run off Eovaldi in the fifth, singled off Nova with one down in the seventh. Brock Holt followed with a grounder to third baseman Chase Headley, who had trouble removing the ball from his glove as the Yankees were able to get a force at second base but not a double play. Betances then was summoned to pitch to Vazquez and allowed a home run for his third consecutive appearance.

Vazquez’s homer put David Price in position for the winning decision that ran his record with his new club to 4-0. It was not a pretty outing for Price, who raised his career mark against the Yankees to 14-7 despite a 4.17 ERA. The lefthander yielded six earned runs and eight hits in seven innings and heard booing at Fenway Park where he has pitched to an 8.34 ERA in four starts totaling 22 2/3 innings. Since the start of 2014, the Yanks have batted .303 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs against Price.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s second double of the game tied the score at 1 in the third inning. Two batters later, Rodriguez launched his fifth home run this season to make it 3-1. The Red Sox moved back ahead, 4-3, in the bottom half on a two-run single by Hanley Ramirez and a two-out, RBI single by Holt.

Rodriguez doubled home two runs in the fifth and scored on a single by Mark Teixeira as the Yankees regained the lead, 6-4. Again, Eovaldi could not hold it in yielding the bomb to Shaw. The Yankees made it a one-run game in the eighth with a run on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara, but that would be as close as they came.

While the Yankees sank deeper in the basement of the American League East with an 8-15 record, the Red Sox took over first place in the division by a half-game over the Orioles, who await the Bombers at Camden Yards for a three-game series that begins Tuesday night.

Yanks offer no resistance in blanking to Red Sox

Ronald Torreyes pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning Saturday night. It was the first time a player with no home runs in his career batted for a player with 691 homers. That is all you need to know about how the Yankees fared in the game.

This spring-training sort of finish explained the Yankees’ situation. Nothing A-Rod could have done in that at-bat in the final inning was going to do anything other than to avoid a shutout. The Red Sox pushed the Yankees all over Fenway Park for an 8-0 victory behind unbeaten Rick Porcello (5-0), who fashioned a start that the Bombers have seldom gotten from their rotation.

Porcello shut down the Yankees on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts in seven innings as he pitched six or more innings for his 13th straight start since last August. On the other hand, Michael Pineda (1-3) lasted only five innings for the second straight start. Coming off a game in which he yielded five home runs, Pineda kept the ball in the yard this time but exhibited trouble pitching with two outs.

Boston scored two runs after two were gone in the second inning on a single by Christian Vazquez and doubles by Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Pineda actually pitched well after that, but his pitch count was so high that he had to come out after the fifth.

The Yankees’ bullpen could not keep the game close. Chasen Shreve gave up two runs in the sixth with Bradley a culprit again belting an RBI triple and then scoring on a single by Betts. David Ortiz, who won Friday night’s game with a two-run home run in the eighth, greeted Johnny Barbeto with a solo shot in the seventh. The Red Sox added three more runs on a walk, a single, an error by second baseman Starlin Castro and a two-run triple by Bradley, who has been a one-man wrecking crew in this series. Bradley is 4-for-6 (.667) with two doubles, two triples and five RBI in the series. And he is the 9-hole hitter!

Nevertheless, this was a game the Yankees were still in until the seventh, but their sleepwalking offense had another silent night. The Yankees had five singles and were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. They have scored three of fewer runs in 17 of their 22 games, including each of the past seven games.

Manager Joe Girardi is not ready to push the panic button, but the first month of the season is complete and his team has an 8-14 record amid a four-game losing streak with David Price (3-0) looming Sunday night.

Red Sox pound Green Monster late for comeback win

Fenway Park has been a comfort zone for the Yankees in recent years. Red Sox fans could not have been pleased that the Yankees won seven of nine games there last year and were 23-13 at Fenway since the start of 2012, their best four-year run in the rival team’s home in 49 years.

Masahiro Tanaka certainly looked comfortable at Fenway Friday night. Until the seventh inning, that is. Tanaka was working on a three-hit shutout through six when the tide turned against him. Three left-handed batters went to the opposite field for hits that wiped out a 2-0 deficit.

A double off the wall by Jackie Bradley that scored Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, each of whom had punched singles to left field with one out, was the killer for Tanaka, a stunning development since it came one pitch after the righthander had struck out Ryan Hanigan on a 94-mph fastball. 

Given new life, the Red Sox struck again in the eighth against Dellin Betances. David Ortiz drove a hanging curve ball over the Green Monster for a two-run home run. Just like that, the Yankees were 4-2 losers. Yankees fans have seen Ortiz do such dramatics over the years against the Bombers. Ortiz is a career .307 hitter with 48 home runs and 160 RBI in 834 career at-bats against Yankees pitching. Fourteen of those homers have given Boston leads in games. Yankees fans are happy this is his last season.

That the Red Sox were still in position to make a comeback was due primarily to the failure of the Yankees’ offense to take advantage of all the base runners they had over the first six innings against lefthander Henry Owens, who entered the game with a career 13.50 ERA against them. Brett Gardner’s two-out, RBI single in the fifth was the Yanks’ only hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez’s fourth home run accounted for the other Yankees run. They had 10 runners on base in the first five innings against Owens, and only two scored. The Red Sox turned four double plays behind Owens.

Rodriguez’s 691st career home run was also career hit No. 3,082, which pushed him past Hall of Famer Cap Anson into 20th place on the all-time list. Next up is another Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield, at 3,110.

Boston relievers Matt Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel each retired the side in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. The Yankees’ opportunities came against Owens, but they let them slip away, just like the game.

Severino cannot stop the rain of Texas hits

Violent weather was in the forecast for Arlington, Texas, Tuesday night,  which threatened the Yankees’ game against the Rangers. The teams were hoping to get the game in so that they woild not lose their off day Thursday. As it turned out, the Yankees would probably have settled for a rainout. Instead they got a washout.

Rain did fall briefly in a couple of spots, but the game went the distance. The rain that bothered the Yankees more was the rain of hits the Rangers slammed all over Globe Life Park as Texas breezed to a 10-1 victory. The relief the Yankees may have felt for facing a right-handed starting pitcher for the first time in five days dissipated as A.J. Griffin eased through the lineup. He allowed only two singles, both by 9-hole hitter Ronald Torreyes, through six innings and pitched through the eighth.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the seventh on an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, who is on a nice run, but they were eight runs behind at the time. The Rangers bashed out 13 hits — five for extra bases, including home runs by Ian Desmond off Ivan Nova and Roughned Odor off Chasen Shreve — in ending a four-game losing streak.

The most disappointing performance by a Yankees pitcher was that of Luis Severino, who was not taken deep but was stung for six earned runs and seven hits in three innings. It was the poorest outing of the season for Severino, who had a strong spring and was projected as a possible staff ace but has stumbled to a 0-3 start with a 6.86 ERA.

The ugliest inning for Severino was the third. After getting two quick outs on grounders, he gave up a single to birthday boy Nomar Mazara (21) and a double to Adian Beltre. With first base open, Prince Fielder was walked intentionally, a wise strategic move unless what happened next happens, a very unintentional walk to Desmond that pushed in a run. With little feel for his breaking ball, Severino tried to muscle his way through the inning and gave up a two-run single to Mitch Moreland and a run-scoring single by Elvis Andrus on fastballs. In between Severino let in another run with a wild pitch.

It was 6-0 Texas, and all the Yankees could hope for was the fierce storm that was predicted to make an early arrival and rinse those runs away.

For the second straight night, Teixeira had the Yankees’ only hit with a runner in scoring position that extended his hitting streak to five games during which he is batting .450 with two runs, a double and three RBI in 20 at-bats.

Hits not easy to come by this time against Eovaldi

The best thing about Prince Fielder’s smoking double in the seventh inning Monday night was that it meant Nathan Eovaldi’s no-hit bid was not spoiled by the preceding hit by Nomar Mazara. Imagine if that had been the only hit of the game? Mazara should have grounded out to shortstop, but the Yankees had the shift on, so Mazara’s ball found a hole and slithered into left-center field for a single leading off the seventh.

You can debate the use of infield shifts that have been in vogue in recent years for hours, but the sight of a pitcher wondering where his infielders are is an indictment of what I think is overuse of the practice. Mazara is a rookie for crying out loud, and the Yankees were shifting against him? Mazara wound up getting doubled up on Adrian Beltre’s line drive to Starlin Castro before Fielder got the first legitimate hit off Eovaldi

As a kid growing up in Alvin, Texas, Eovaldi heard all about no-hitters because that is also the home town of Nolan Ryan, who pitched seven of them, three more than any other major-league pitcher. As a flamethrower whose fastball flirts with 100 miles per hour on occasion, Eovaldi resembles Ryan in that phase as well. However, Eovaldi unlike Ryan has not been stingy allowing hits to opponents, so his taking a no-no into the seventh inning was an eye-opener.

Eovaldi entered the game having allowed 701 hits in 649 2/3 innings over the course of his career, including 21 hits in 17 2/3 innings this year in his first three starts. Hitters usually get on base against him but not Monday night. Until the seventh when they both finally got to Eovaldi, Fielder and Mazara had been the only Texas players to reach base. An error by shortstop Didi Gregorius at the start of the second put Fielder on base, but he was quickly erased on a double play. Mazara walked in the fourth and never got beyond first base.

It was not the fastball alone that was working for Eovaldi in the 3-1 victory over the Rangers but how he mixed it with all his pitches. His slider and splitter were dead-on, and he had Texas batters off stride all night. It was a magnificent job by a pitcher in a hitter’s yard.

With a three-run lead going into the eighth, Yankees manager Joe Girardi instead of going to Dellin Betances right away allowed Eovaldi to start the inning, but a leadoff walk ended his brilliant night. Betances came in and got a quick double play before yielding his first earned run of the season on a home run by Brett Nicholas. Betances rebounded with his 23rd strikeout in 10 innings, and Andrew Miller (fifth save) finished the Rangers off in a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Yankees got the trip off to a positive start on a night when two of their players, Alex Rodriguez and Adam Hicks, were unavailable. The Yankees once again struggled with runners in scoring position (1-for-9), but solo home runs by Jacoby Ellsbury and Castro off Texas lefthander Cesar Ramos made up for the lack of clutch. The one hit with a runner in scoring position was a double by Mark Teixeira in the third. Austin Romine, who steered Eovaldi through the game from behind the plate, also had two hits.

A-Rod, Hicks not on disabled list — yet

So Alex Rodriguez did not go on the disabled list after all. Neither did Aaron Hicks as the Yankees apparently have decided to play short in the three-game series against the Rangers that opened the 11-day, nine-game trip, which begins Monday night in Arlington, Texas, and continues to Boston and Baltimore.

Rodriguez, who was forced out of Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium against the Rays because of stiffness in his left oblique, told reporters in Texas that he was feeling better and might even be able to pinch hit if called upon. Knowing manager Joe Girardi’s history of caution with ailing players, that would seem doubtful. Still, it was a good sign that A-Rod did not go on the DL and might be back earlier than expected.

Hicks, on the other hand, is probably a no-go for the Texas series as he has yet to do any serious work while nursing bursitis in his left shoulder. With yet another lefthander on the mound, Rangers rookie Cesar Ramos, Hicks would have been in the lineup if healthy.

Due to the roster shortage, Girardi was forced to start three left-handed hitting outfielders. Dustin Ackley was to make his first major-league start in right field (and only his third game there overall) in joining left fielder Brett Gardner and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Regular right fielder Carlos Beltran took Rodriguez’s place as the designated hitter. Second baseman Starlin Castro was moved to the 5-hole to give the Yankees some right-handed pop in thge middle of the order with the switch-hitting Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley.

There was more troubling news on the injury front. James Kaprelian, the Yankees’ first-round selection in last year’s First Year Player Draft, was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad in New York and found to have inflammation in his right elbow after an MRI exam. The righthander will rest the elbow before beginning a throwing program. Kaprelian was off to a strong start for Class A Tampa in the Florida State League with a 2-1 record and a 1.50 ERA.

After getting a second opinion from noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, pitcher Branden Pinder has decided to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He will be out for the remainder of the season.

Five Rays homers cost Yanks shot at sweep

Michael Pineda endured a nightmare of a first inning Sunday that put a damper on a bright, sunshine day in which the Yankees were shooting for their first series sweep since Aug. 28-30 last year at Atlanta. Instead, they fell back into the cellar of the American League East and hobbled their way to Arlington, Texas, to begin an 11-day, nine-game trip that starts Monday night against a Rangers team that is tied for first place in the AL West.

Five pitches into Sunday’s game before a crowd of 40,931 at Yankee Stadium, Pineda had two outs and nobody on base. He then gave up hits to the next six batters, including two doubles and two home runs, as the aggressive Rays attacked him early in the count to put up a five-spot against which the Yankees brought little resistance in falling, 8-1.

The only positive for Pineda Sunday was that he managed to pitch through the fifth inning, which spared manager Joe Girardi of digging too deep into his already overworked bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-inning start Saturday helped, but Girardi knew from the outset Sunday that he did not have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller available. This game turned out not to be the type in which either of the late-inning shutdown guys works.

Birthday boy Steven Souza celebrated turning 27 with two home runs, a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the fifth. Pineda also gave up dingers to Corey Dickerson following a two-out double off the top of the center field wall by Evan Longoria in the first inning and to Steve Pearce leading off the third. Logan Forsythe, who had three hits, joined the home run derby with Tampa Bay’s fifth of the game, a solo shot in the eighth off Nick Goody.

It was also Carlos Beltran’s birthday. The Yankees right fielder turned 39 but did not have as explosive a game as Souza. Beltran was 1-for-4. His first-inning single off eventual winning pitcher Drew Smyly was career hit No. 2,472 for Beltran, who tied Ted Simmons for 10th place among switch hitters. In ninth place at 2,605 is Tim Raines.

The day turned grimmer for the Yankees when Alex Rodriguez, who has driven in their only run with a two-out double in the fourth inning, could not bat when his turn came up again in the sixth. Girardi had to use the left-handed hitting Dustin Ackley as a pinch hitter against the lefty-throwing Smyly (although Ackley singled for his first hit of the season, in his eighth at-bat).

An MRI exam on Rodriguez’s sore left oblique was negative, but the situation shows the dilemma the Yankees are in with Aaron Hicks already out several days because of traumatic bursitis in his left shoulder. The Yanks have proved vulnerable to left-handed pitching. They are 2-5 against left-handed starters and are batting .225 with two home runs overall in 213 at-bats off lefties. Against right-handed pitching, the Yankees are batting .246 with 16 home runs in 358 at-bats.

The Yankees said that A-Rod will make the trip to Texas. But if he cannot play right away, and that is very likely considering how lingering oblique injuries tend to be, and with Hicks out as well, the Yankees lose two right-handed bats. Switch-hitter Nick Swisher, who was released by Atlanta and signed a Triple A contract with the Yankees, is playing for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but is not on the 40-man roster. The Yankees are not believed interested in dropping anyone off the 40-man roster at this time, which limits their options if they make an internal move for outfield and DH help. The best bet for a call-up would be outfielder Ben Gamel, who is hitting .300 with a .368 on-base percentage at SWB but alas bats left-handed.

The Yanks have known along that staying healthy is a challenge to a team with aging players. The upcoming trip that continues to AL East rival stops in Boston and Baltimore could be a major test for them.

Weapons old and new sustain Yankees

The Yankees have a new weapon in their offensive arsenal this year. It is called catcher’s interference whereby a player is awarded first base if the opposing catcher interferes with the batter’s swing.

For the third time in a season that is only 16 games old for the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury reached base Saturday due to catcher’s interference, in this case that of Tampa Bay’s Hank Conger. It was a painful play as well for Conger, who hurt his left hand and had to come out of the game.

The situation kept a rally alive for the Yankees in the seventh inning. It came on a 3-2 pitch, which is Ellsbury’s favorite count these days. Friday night, he stole home on a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner, an unusual decision to say the least.

The catcher’s interference call loaded the bases for the Yanks with two out. Gardner followed with a laser-beam line drive off the glove of pitcher Xavier Cedeno, one of three lefthanders Rays manager Kevin Cash threw against the Bombers in the game. Cedeno keep the ball from getting to the outfield, but the infield single was good enough to score the tying run.

Knotting the score at that point put the Yankees in position to use their favorite bullpen formula, Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Masahiro Tanaka, who had a strong outing (two runs, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, one home run in seven innings) was off the hook with a no-decision. So, too, was Tampa Bay rookie Blake Snell, who held the Yankees to two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over five innings in an impressive major-league debut.

It was the Yankees’ more traditional weapon that settled Saturday’s game, a jolting home run by Gardner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Erasmo Ramirez, the only righthander in the game for the Rays.

Stacking lefties against the Yankees is a tactic by opponents. Cash will throw another lefthander, Drew Smyly, against the Yankees and Michael Pineda Sunday in the series finale. The idea, of course, is to neutralize Ellsbury and Gardner, left-handed outfielders at the top of the batting order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had taken to sitting one of them and using right-handed Aaron Hicks in the outfield against lefties, but Hicks got hurt Friday night and will be out for several more days because of traumatic bursitis in his left shoulder, so Ellsbury and Gardner were both in the lineup and had a huge game.

They combined to reach base five times in 10 plate appearances. Gardner had both RBI for the Yankees. Their other run was scored in the first inning on a wild pitch by Snell, who settled down after that. It was the first walk-off victory for the Yankees this season, and the second game-winning homer of Gardner’s career. The other was Aug. 11, 2013 against the Tigers.

Gardner has been the Yankees’ most consistent hitter on the homestand by batting .444 with five runs, two doubles, two home runs, four RBI and five walks in seven games and 25 at-bats.

This has been a big bounce back series for the Yanks, who were swept by Oakland and dropped two of three to Seattle in stumbling into last place in the American League East. They switched places with the Rays with the victories Friday night and Saturday.

Before the game, the Yankees saluted CC Sabathia, wife and mother Marge for their PitCCh In Foundation’s initiative to renovate a baseball field at Claremont Park in the Bronx. The Sabathia’s thanked supporters of the project to refurbish the facility at the corner of Clay and Webster Avenues at a cost of approximately $500,000. Partners involved with the Claremont Park project included members from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Yankees, the New York Police Department’s 44th Precinct and Roc Nation. The Foundation dedicated the field renovation to the Rolando Paulino Little League, which was represented by board member Emily Rufino and Little League players Justin Zapata and Elias Barcacel

Hicks well-armed for Yankees

Aaron Hicks, who made some news Wednesday night for his arm strength, drew first blood for the Yankees offensively Thursday night with a single on a soft fly ball to center field to drive in a run. The Yankees entered the game batting .189 in 111 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.089 over their previous eight games), so a clutch hit was welcomed.

It was also a boost to Hicks, who had been hitless in his 17 prior at-bats. He had another strong game in the field. In the fourth inning, he climbed the wall along the left field line to glove a foul fly by Chris Coghlan. Two innings later, Hicks showed off that powerful arm again by throwing out Jed Lowrie trying to stretch a single into a double.

Those plays accounted for the highlights in another Yankees loss, 7-3, to the Athletics, who swept the three-game series.

Hicks was in the starting lineup for the second straight night because manager Joe Girardi wanted to load up on right-handed hitters against Oakland lefthander Rich Hill, who gave up one earned run and three hits with 10 strikeouts in six innings. An errant pickoff by Hill allowed Alex Rodriguez to cross from first base to third base in the fourth inning and resulted in an unearned run with A-Rod scoring on a dribbling single to the left side by Austin Romine.

Brett Gardner was on the bench still nursing a stiff neck, although Girardi said the left fielder would have started if the Athletics had started a right-handed pitcher. Romine started behind the plate for Brian McCann, who is 1-for-18 (.056) in the homestand.

Also on the bench was lefty-hitting shortstop Didi Gregorius with righty-swinging Ronald Torreyes starting instead. Girardi had been critical of Gregorius’ poor base running Wednesday when he ran them out of a rally but told reporters not to read anything into Gregorius sitting down and claimed it was just part of getting another right-handed bat in the lineup.

The only left-handed batter in the Yanks’ lineup was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Good thing, too. After a shaky few games in the field, Ellsbury made a diving catch in the top of the first inning to rob Mark Canha of a potential run-scoring extra base hit. Ellsbury had a good night at the plate as well with three singles.

Gardner, McCann and Gregorius all entered the game as pinch hitters in the seventh inning when Hill was replaced by righthander Fernando Rodriguez. Yankees starter Luis Severino failed to hold two one-run leads in six innings, but the loss went to Chasen Shreve, who gave up home runs to Khris Davis and Coco Crisp on the first two pitches of the seventh. Coghlan homered off Johny Barbato in the eighth. It was a grim night for the bullpen (five earned runs, three hits, three walks, two strikeouts, three home runs in three innings).

Hicks’ throw from left field that cut down Oakland’s Danny Valencia at the plate to end the fourth inning Wednesday night was recorded at 105.5 miles per hour by MLB Statcast. It was the fastest throw by an outfielder since Statcast debuted at the start of the 2015 season. The previous best was 103.1 mph by the Astros’ Carlos Gomez in September 2015.

It was announced Wednesday that the Grapefruit League drew an average of 7,096 fans per game this spring, the first time in the 100-year history of spring training in Florida that teams eclipsed 7,000 in attendance. The Yankees averaged 10,053 fans per home game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to lead the Grapefruit League in attendance for the third consecutive season.

Runs still tough to come by

A miserable fourth inning was the ugly centerpiece of the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to Oakland as they have now lost their second straight series at home to an American League West club. The inning ended somewhat triumphantly on a dart of a throw to the plate by left fielder Aaron Hicks, but baseballs seemed to evade Yankees gloves throughout the frame.

Nathan Eovaldi, breezing along on a one-hit shutout to that point, got off to a messy start of the inning yielding back-to-back doubles to Billy Burns and Craig Coghlan that took away the 1-0 lead Didi Gregorius had provided in the second with his second home run of the season.

Josh Reddick broke the tie with a run-scoring single to left. Reddick went to third on Danny Valencia’s single to center and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Vogt. The Yankees lost a shot at an inning-ending double play when third baseman Chase Headley bobbled a grounder by Jed Lowrie and Gregorius dropped Headley’s toss to second base for an error. A single off Headley’s glove by Khris Davis loaded the bases.

Then Hicks came to the rescue. After gloving Yonder Alonso’s fly to medium left field, Hicks threw a pea to catcher Brian McCann to complete the double play. Hicks, who has struggled at the plate (.050), finally made a major contribution in keeping the game from getting out of hand. He was a last-minute substitute for Brett Gardner, who has been scratched from the game due to a stiff neck.

But the Yankees could not get themselves back into the game offensively. They wasted golden opportunities in the first and seventh innings especially. Alex Rodriguez struck out looking in the first stranding the bases loaded. With runners on second and third and one out in the seventh, Gregorius made a bad read on a grounder by Hicks and was tagged out by Coghlan, the third baseman who then threw to first base for a huge double play that wounded the Yankees. They had another 0-fer game with runners in scoring position (0-for-4). The only other run came on Carlos Beltran’s fourth homer, a solo shot in the eighth.

“We’re just not scoring runs right now,” manager Joe Girardi understated after the game.  “It is hard to win if you don’t score.”

In the past eight games, the Yankees have scored more than three runs in a game just once, and their total in that game was merely four. They are averaging 4.1 runs per game. Of their 53 runs, 16 came in one game.

Adding to the embarrassment, the Yankees not only did not solve Athletics starter Kendall Graveman but also could not take advantage of the pitcher having to bat from the fourth inning on, a first at the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. Valencia strained a hamstring on the play at the plate. Short on infielders, Oakland manager Bob Melvin had to pull Lowrie from the designated hitter spot and play him at second base with Coghlan moving from second to third to take over for Valencia. That turned Graveman and three A’s relievers into cleanup hitters. Graveman batted once and struck out. When’s the pitcher’s spot came up again, in the eighth, pinch hitter Billy Butler singled to start a rally that produced two more runs on a bases-loaded single by Davis.

Such productive hitting is precisely what the Yankees lack these days.

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