July almost like two different months
July was a schizophrenic month for the Yankees. Halfway through it, they were riding high with a 10-4 record and bound to extend their major-league record for winning Julys to 20, five more than any major-league team.
They then went into a tailspin that resulted in nine losses over the last 13 games of the month to finish at 13-13, their first non-winning record in July since 1992. Tuesday night’s game was the month in microcosm. The Yankees blew a 5-0, first-inning lead and lost to the Orioles, 11-5.
At the end of play July 18, the Yankees had opened a 10-game lead in the American League East, the widest of any first-place club in the majors this season. Over the past two weeks, 4 ½ games of that lead have been shaved off as Baltimore trails now by only 5 ½ games. The Yanks did not have a four-game losing streak for three months and have had two in the past two weeks. The four-game losing streak at home is their longest since a six-gamer May 11-20 last year.
“We’re not playing well; there’s no doubt about it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve come back from these stretches before and need to do it again.”
Normally, a 5-0 lead is pretty safe in the hands of Ivan Nova, but not the way he has pitched lately. The righthander gave it all back and then some as the Orioles responded with a seven-run second inning on the way to taking a 9-5 lead by the fifth, Nova’s last inning. It was an ugly line for Nova (nine earned runs and 10 hits in five innings), whose ERA bloated from 4.08 to 4.53.
“Most of the year he has been good with runners on base but not this time,” Girardi said. “He just didn’t have good stuff.”
Nova, who won five straight starts from late May into mid-June, has won one game in eight starts since June 17. Over that stretch, he is 1-3 with four no-decisions and a 5.29 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. He is winless in his past four starts with two no-decisions and a 7.54 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.
The Yankees have done a solid job all year overcoming injuries to Brett Gardner, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez. Chamberlain returned to duty Tuesday night, and the Yankees received good news on Mark Teixeira, who is nursing a painful left wrist but could be back in the lineup sometime this weekend.
Without Tex and A-Rod, the lineup looked pretty short yet the Yankees batted around against career pin cushion Chris Tillman for a five-spot in the first inning. Tillman got off the canvas, however, and held the Yankees to two hits over the next four innings to come away with the victory and leaving the Yanks to sigh, “Bring on August.”