Yanks’ offense reaching exasperation level
Even after the grimmest of losses, Joe Girardi can put on a good face and handle questions from the press adroitly. Sunday was different, however. There is no doubt that the Yankees’ manager has become exasperated at what is going on with his hitters these days.
The Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Reds could have easily been blamed on CC Sabathia, who blew a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning by allowing three runs on solo home runs by a couple of guys named Ryan, Ludwick and Hanigan, and a sudden loss of control that resulted in three straight walks, the last of which forced in what proved the winning run. Sabathia showed rare displeasure with a plate umpire by gesturing at Tony Randazzo after the inning ended, but none of the replays I saw indicated that CC was being squeezed.
Three earned runs in seven innings from a starting pitcher are plenty acceptable any day. Sabathia was working on a three-hit shutout before the seventh and did not get a lead until the sixth when Raul Ibanez, who has become the steadiest productive player in the Yankees’ lineup, slammed a two-run home run in the right field second deck.
Yes, it is important for a pitcher to shut down the opposition the inning following that of his team taking the lead, so CC must share some of the guilt for his seventh-inning turnaround. But the glum expression on Girardi’s face and his dour response to inquiries were not due to what Sabathia did as much as what his lineup did not.
“We didn’t score a lot of runs again,” Girardi said.
The Yankees totaled 11 runs in the three games against the Reds and lost the rubber game in a series in which the pitching staff struck out 35 Cincinnati batters. That the Yankees won only one of those games was due to an offense that continues to struggle with runners in scoring opportunities. They were 3-for-18 (.167) in the series stranding 19 runners and are in a 6-for-59 (.102) funk in the clutch. For the season, the Yankees are batting .231 in those situations.
Almost as loud as the ovation the Bat Day crowd of 45,622 at Yankee Stadium accorded Ibanez for his homer were the shouts throughout the stands when Alex Rodriguez hit a towering drive to left field in the eighth with a runner on that had the look of two-run homer when it came off the bat that would have regained the lead for the Yankees.
The strong wind blowing in from left field on this sunny, breezy afternoon may have had a part in A-Rod’s blast dying on the warning track.
“We thought that ball was gone big time, and he probably thought that ball was gone, too,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “But the elements were with us on that particular play.”
“I thought it was going out when he hit,” Girardi concurred. “I thought we’d get the lead.”
Perhaps it did not matter. The Reds scored two more runs in the ninth on a two-out double by Ludwick off Rafael Soriano. Mark Teixeira, who did not start a game in the series because of his bronchial condition, reached base with one out in the bottom of the ninth as a pinch hitter, but two other pinch hitters, Russell Martin and Andruw Jones, couldn’t handle the 98-mph gas from Aroldis Chapman, who earned his first save of the season.
The Yankees’ first taste of inter-league play this year was bitter. Sabathia was paired with the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA in winning the top-shelf pitchers’ duel. Games like this often prompt players and managers to say that occasionally you have to tip your cap to the opposing pitchers.
Girardi wore an expression that told everyone in the room that he is getting tired of doing that.