Yanks hope for boost from A-Rod
It is admittedly hard to stay optimistic about the Yankees after this past homestand in which they lost four of six games and had their lead in the American League East dwindle to two games over the Orioles, who were 8-3 winners Sunday and have beaten the Yankees six times in nine games this year at Yankee Stadium.
Baltimore certainly did not look like a team that will fade this month. Granted, the Orioles did hand the Yankees Saturday’s game, but they came back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 Sunday on the strength of two home runs by Mark Reynolds for four of the five runs that Phil Hughes gave up over five-plus innings.
The long ball has plagued Hughes all season, although Sunday was the first time in seven starts that he gave up more than one. Hughes has been taken deep 32 times this season.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wore out a path from the dugout to the mound as he used eight pitchers in the game, including five in the eighth inning alone when the Orioles pulled away. Get used to this. With rosters expanded in September, managers have many more pitching options.
At issue for the Yankees has been a somewhat stagnant offense. They scored 22 runs during the homestand, which was an average of less than four runs (3.7) per game. After Mark Teixeira was sidelined because of a left calf strain, the Yankees’ cleanup hitters were Steve Pearce, Andruw Jones, Curtis Granderson and Eric Chavez. Granderson also got hurt (right hamstring tendinitis) and did not play Sunday.
In Granderson’s place was the lone bright spot for the Yankees Sunday. September callup Chris Dickerson hit a two-run home run, walked, scored two runs and made a sensational catch to rob Adam Jones of a potential home run in the seventh inning.
The Yankees are 2-4 after the first portion of a 22-game stretch against divisional foes, and they embark on their longest trip of the year, a 10-game, 11-day trek to St. Petersburg, Fla., Baltimore and Boston that starts with a Labor Day matinee game at Tropicana Field where the Yanks have lost five of six games this season.
Teixeira and Granderson may be kept off the Trop’s artificial surface, but Girardi said he was planning on getting Alex Rodriguez back into the lineup, although the manager did not specify third base or designated hitter. The main position for A-Rod with Girardi is hitter. The Yankees could use a lineup boost.
In the 36 games Rodriguez spent on the disabled list, his replacements at third base (Chavez, Jayson Nix and Casey McGehee) combined to bat .303 with six doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBI and a .508 slugging percentage in 132 at-bats. Not bad. However, over the past 16 games, Yankees third basemen hit .193 with one extra-base hit, a double, and one RBI in 57 at-bats. Not good.
The Yankees played .500 ball (18-18) in Rodriguez’s absence. They are going to have to do better to fight off the challenge of the Orioles and the Rays, who are 3 ½ games out.