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All Yanks join Ellsbury in hit parade

No sooner had Jacoby Ellsbury reached first base with a leadoff single in the third inning Wednesday night at Detroit that I said to myself, “Anyone else on this team want to help this guy?”

Ellsbury had accounted for both Yankees runs in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss with solo home runs and opened Wednesday’s game with a single and a stolen base but was stranded at second base.

I do not claim any penchant for mental telepathy, but I may have transmitted something across to the rest of the Yankees because all they did an entire turn through the batting order that inning was follow Ellsbury’s lead and reach base with hits.

It was a manager’s absolute dream as Joe Girardi watched each player he placed in the lineup knock his way on base. Ellsbury’s speed got him a second steal as he outran a pickoff. Derek Jeter brought him home with a double as the parade began, followed by a single by Martin Prado, a double by Mark Teixeira and singles by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli. Not only did the Yankees get nine hits in a row but also eight straight with runners in scoring position, which in some cases this year has been a series worth of clutch hits.

And that was no tomato can on the mound off of whom the Yankees got nine consecutive hits, two shy of the Rockies’ major league mark against the Cubs in 2010. The Detroit starter was none other than 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price, who entered the game with a 10-5 career record against the Yankees.

Price never did get an out that inning. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus yanked him for another lefthander, Blaine Hardy, who gave up two more runs on sacrifice flies by Ellsbury and Jeter as the Yankees swelled their lead to 8-0.

Remember how excited the Yankees were Monday night when they scored eight runs against the Royals with James Shields starting? Well, this time they scored that many runs in just one inning.

Ellsbury certainly looks comfortable back in the leadoff spot where he batted most often in his years with the Red Sox. Girardi has had to use him in the 3-hole much of this year because of the inconsistency and injuries to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.

Usual leadoff man Gardner was out the first two games of the trip because of a right ankle bruise. He was back Wednesday night but dropped to the 8-hole because of his career problems against Price (2-for-20 entering play).

With two hits, two stolen bases and an RBI over his first three plate appearances, Ellsbury definitely was a table setter. Yet for a change he had plenty of support.

As appreciative as Girardi for all this offense was Yanks starter Shane Greene, who did not give up a hit or a run until the fourth inning. The righthander did not pitch as it he had a huge lead but rather as if the score was close, the best approach for a pitcher to take.

Green gave up two runs, five hits and one walk with a hit batter and eight strikeouts in seven innings to remain undefeated in eight starts since July 21 and improve his record to 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA.

The big-inning victory also did the Yanks quite a bit of good in the standings. They picked up a game on the Orioles in the American League East and now trail by six and sliced a game off the deficit for the second wild card spot to 2 1/2 games behind the Mariners and two behind the Tigers.

Girardi dunked; Yanks donate $100G to ALS

The Ice Bucket Challenge that has helped bring awareness to the debilitating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) reached the Yankees Wednesday as manager Joe Girardi took part and then offered challenges to the four newest members of Monument Park — Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill. Torre already participated earlier this month alongside commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

In connection with Girardi’s participation, the Yankees pledged $100,000 to the ALS Association (www.alsa.org). The donation is made in recognition of those who bravely live with ALS, those who have died from the condition and those around the world who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort to raise awareness and funding to find a cure.

Girardi, whose uncle died of the disease in April, told reporters in Detroit after Yanks publicist Jason Zillo dumped over an ice bucket on him, “I think this is a really good thing. It started here, and it’s bringing a lot of attention to ALS. It’s a horrific disease, what it does to people. And it’s not just older, it’s young people that it happens to. Hopefully all these things people are doing to raise money help find a cure.”

Video of Girardi’s participation may be found at http://www.yankees.com, on the Yankees’ official Twitter account (@yankees) and on the Yankees’ official Facebook page (facebook.com/yankees).

“The Yankees organization has been inspired by the public’s embrace of the Ice Bucket Challenge as a creative way to support ALS charities,” Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. “We make this donation in the memory of everyone who has been touched by ALS and those who have tried to make a difference in finding a cure.”

The Yankees have had a long-standing relationship with the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter (www.als-ny.org), providing financial contributions and other resources to the organization.

ALS is most closely associated with former Yankees first baseman and captain Lou Gehrig, who passed away from its effects June 2, 1941 at the age of 37. Former Yankees pitcher and fellow Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter also died from ALS in 1999 at the age of 53.

Known as “The Iron Horse,” Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games before taking himself out of the Yankees’ lineup prior to the team’s May 2, 1939 game at Detroit where the Yankees are now involved in a series against the Tigers. He never played in a major-league game again.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, which was held July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium between games of a doubleheader against the old Washington Senators. After receiving kind words from New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy and former teammate Babe Ruth, Gehrig stepped to the microphone to make his famous speech which began, “For the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break. Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

Two more homers for Ellsbury in loss to Tigers

It would have been awfully hard for Brandon McCarthy to match his previous start for the Yankees, a four-hit, eight-strikeout, complete-game shutout against the Astros in a tidy two hours and seven minutes last week at Yankee Stadium.

But if there was a team McCarthy might have pitched almost as well against, it was the Tigers. The righthander entered Tuesday night’s game at Comerica Park having won his prior three starts against Detroit with an ERA of 0.46 in 19 2/3 innings.

That streak came to an end and the Yankees’ five-game winning streak as well as the Tigers roughed up McCarthy for five runs and nine hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 5-2 Detroit victory that pushed the Tigers three games up on the Yanks in the race for the second American League wild-card playoff spot.

Indications that this might not be McCarthy’s night came as early as the second inning when he loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batter and forced in a run with another walk. He averted further damage by getting Ian Kinsler on a double-play grounder.

J.D. Martinez, who had three hits off McCarthy, doubled with two out in the third for the second Detroit run. McCarthy then settled down and retired seven straight batters into the sixth before giving up three straight hits as the Tigers added two runs that inning. A leadoff double by Rajai Davis and a one-out single by Torii Hunter in the seventh led to another run and McCarthy’s departure.

His 1.90 ERA, the best for a Yankees starter through his first eight starts for the franchise since Jimmy Key’s 1.79 ERA in 1993, took a hike up to 2.47 as his record fell to 5-3 with the Yanks and 8-13 overall. Detroit did not crush the ball against McCarthy, who kept the Tigers in the yard but had a hard time keeping them off base.

The Yankees’ offense was pretty much all Jacoby Ellsbury, which is not all that surprising considering his career success against Tigers righthander Rick Porcello. Ellsbury accounted for both New York runs with a couple of solo home runs. He is now 11-for-17 (.647) with four home runs lifetime against Porcello, who was much better against the rest of the lineup.

Porcello held a Yankees lineup that had scored eight runs the night before at Kansas City to seven singles. His sinker was working big-time as the Yankees made 14 outs on ground balls to go with two strikeouts and no walks. Porcello’s 15th victory tied him with teammate Max Scherzer for the AL lead in that category.

For Ellsbury, it was his second consecutive three-hit game as he continues to be hot. He came off a .409 homestand to begin this trip with six hits in nine at-bats (.667) with three home runs and five RBI.

It is an encouraging sign for Ellsbury, who has hit much better at home this season than on the road. Ellsbury is batting .329 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 222 at-bats at the Stadium this year. The past two nights have boosted his road average to .246 with eight homers and 38 RBI in 268 at-bats.

Yanks have another ‘big game’ against Shields

James Shields’ nickname is “Big Game,” but the Yankees are the ones who often have the big game when they face him. Such was the case again Monday night as the Yankees got off to a positive start to their significant trip that continues to Detroit and Toronto with an 8-1 victory over the American League Central-leading Royals in a makeup game from a June 9 rainout.

Despite playing without two of their most productive hitters, Brett Gardner (bruised right ankle) and Mark Teixeira (tender left hamstring), the Yankees banged out 13 hits with every member of the lineup contributing to the effort that earned them their fifth straight victory. The barrage included home runs by Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ten of the hits were off Shields, who was trailing by only 2-1 going into the seventh inning when the Yanks broke things open with four runs. Prado, who has been red hot lately, started the inning with a home run. In his past nine games, Prado is batting .417 with eight runs, six doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI in 36 at-bats to raise his season batting average 12 points to .272.

Singles by Chase Headley and Ichiro Suzuki were followed one out later with singles by Ellsbury and Derek Jeter and a sacrifice fly by Brian McCann. Ellsbury finished off a three-hit, three-RBI night with a two-run homer in the ninth off lefthander Francisley Bueno.

Shields was charged with six earned runs in his 6 2/3 innings. He also walked three batters and committed a costly error that led to a Yankees run in the third inning that was driven in by Jeter on an infield out. The Captain had two RBI in his final regular-season game at Kauffman Stadium where he was warmly received by the crowd of 31,758.

The loss dropped Shields’ career record against the Yankees to 9-16 with a 4.33 ERA in 195 1/3 innings. The righthander was the first of four formidable pitchers the Yankees were scheduled to face this week, followed by the Tigers’ Rick Porcello, David Price and Justin Verlander.

The offensive outburst was a welcome sight for the Yankees, who have struggled with the bat much of the season. And the way Michael Pineda pitched, not all that much offense was necessary.

In his third start since coming back from a right shoulder injury, Pineda allowed one run (on a third-inning solo homer by Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas) and five hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Pineda is 1-0 with two no-decisions and a 2.08 ERA with one walk and 12 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings since his return from the disabled list. He has helped fortify a rotation that has been riddled by injuries throughout the season.

David Huff, coming off a victory in relief Sunday, supplied 2 2/3 scoreless innings in support of Pineda, who earned his first winning decision since April 16.

Not to take anything away from this winning streak, but four of the victories came against the going-nowhere Astros and White Sox, but the Royals have proved a legitimate contender for a division title and playoff berth. The Yanks took three of four from Detroit three weeks ago at the Stadium, so there is no reason for them not to feel confident going into Comerica Park.

McCann’s walk-off climaxes homestand

In their previous homestand the Yankees faced American League Cy Young Award winners three games in a row against Detroit. They ended up winning two of those matchups.

Sunday at Yankee Stadium marked the first of another series of confrontations with front-line starting pitchers, and the Yankees held their own in getting the best of White Sox lefthander Chris Sale, who entered the game unbeaten against the Bombers.

In truth, Sale was done in by his defense, but the Yankees took advantage of the door that was opened for them. White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo dropped a fly ball by Martin Prado on the warning track with one out for a two-base error that created the opening against Sale, who entered that sixth inning working on a two-hitter with a 3-0 lead.

By inning’s end, the Yankees had pulled in front, 4-3, with all four runs unearned against Sale’s record. He did not help matters, however, by hitting rookie Zelous Wheeler with a pitch with the bases loaded that forced home one of the runs.

The big hit for the Yankees was a two-run single by Ichiro Suzuki, ironically the only left-handed batter in the starting lineup as manager Joe Girardi chose to stack right-handed swingers against Sale. An aching right ankle kept Brett Gardner on the bench. Girardi decided to give a blow as well to Jacoby Ellsbury, who came into the game in the seventh inning for defense.

Sale escaped with a no-decision when Avisail Garcia, who had struck out in all three of his previous at-bats, drove a first-pitch, knuckle curve from David Robertson to right field for a game-tying home run.

It ended a stretch of 22 consecutive converted save opportunities for Robertson, who had a homestand of mixed results. He was the winning pitcher Friday night and got his 34th save Saturday but also was the losing pitcher last Tuesday night against the Astros when he gave up a three-home run to Chris Carter in the ninth inning of a non-save situation.

All of Chicago’s runs off Yankees starter Chris Capuano were on home runs. Alexei Ramirez led off the game with a homer. Conor Gillaspie connected for a two-run shot in the sixth, Capuano’s last inning.

More big-name pitchers are to come over the next several days for the Yankees. Monday was originally an open date, but the Yanks must travel to Kansas City to make up a June 9 rainout and face James Shields. After that, it is off to Detroit where the starters for the first two games will be Rick Porcello and David Price.

At least the Yankees will take to the road after a satisfying finish to the homestand. After losing the first two games to the Astros, the Yankees came back to win the next four games. Sunday was looking like a downer after Robertson coughed up the lead, but Brian McCann came off the bench to provide the winning blow in the 7-4, 10-inning victory over the White Sox.

McCann has heard his share of boos at the Stadium this year as he has struggled offensively, but there were thunderous cheers from the crowd of 43,366 when he smoked a 3-2 changeup from righthander Jake Petricka for a walk-off three-run home run.

I am on record of giving McCann some slack. It can be tough for a player to switch leagues, particularly a catcher who not only has to learn new opposing pitchers but also with his own staff behind the plate. Some fans might have figured McCann would hit more homers playing regularly and aiming for the Stadium’s right field porch. But he has 54 RBI, which is tied with Mark Teixeira for second on the club only one behind Ellsbury, the club leader.

Another major contribution came from reliever David Huff, who was the winning pitcher. The lefthander put himself in danger in the top of the 10th when he gave up a two-out single to Carlos Sanchez that put runners on first and second and gave an at-bat to AL Rookie of the Year favorite Jose Abreu.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound to remind Huff that there was one open base so that if he fell behind in the count not to worry about walking Abreu, who looked at two knee-high fastballs for strikes. After taking a pitch out of the strike zone, Abreu kept the bat on his shoulder again only to watch Huff hit the outside corner with another fastball for called strike three. Maybe that pitch alone was deserving of a winning decision.

Jeter does flip-flop on farewell tour

Derek Jeter got to return the favor Sunday at Yankee Stadium to Paul Konerko, who was the White Sox representative when the Captain was honored earlier this year at U.S. Cellular Field.

Derek Jeter got to return the favor Sunday at Yankee Stadium to Paul Konerko, who was the White Sox representative when the Captain was honored earlier this year at U.S. Cellular Field.


Derek Jeter got to participate in this farewell-tour stuff from the other side Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter has been feted at ballparks across North America in his 20th and final season in the major leagues. Sunday, the Captain took on the role of presenter to another popular veteran who is playing in his last season in the majors, Paul Konerko. In a brief, pregame ceremony, Jeter on behalf of the Yankees organization presented a first base bag to Konerko, who has been a first baseman for the majority of his 18 big-league seasons, the past 16 with the White Sox.

Konerko has played sparingly (69 games) this season as a back-up player for Chicago and wanted to be in the lineup for his last regular-season game at the Stadium, one of his favorite parks, so manager Robin Ventura started him as the designated hitter and batting sixth. Entering the game, Konerko was a .327 career hitter with 24 home runs and 59 RBI in 196 at-bats at the Stadium.

Yankees deep-6 number for Joe Torre

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.


And then there was one, which is actually two.

Huh?

The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.

Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”

That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.

Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.

An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.

Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.

“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”

And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.

Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.

“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.

“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.

“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”

In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.

Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.

Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.

Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.

Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).

Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.

McCarthy takes us all back in time

For all you young people out there, what occurred at Yankee Stadium Thursday afternoon is called a complete game shutout. You do not see many of those anymore, particularly when the opposing pitcher goes the distance as well.

The double route-going performance by the Yankees’ Brandon McCarthy and the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel was finished in two hours and seven minutes. Most games these days are still in the fifth inning at that point in time. I mean, this was something right out of Warren Spahn vs. Robin Roberts, circa 1956.

It shows how quickly a game can be played when pitchers throw strikes repeatedly. There were no walks in this game, no hit batters and not very many base runners, either. McCarthy got to do what is seldom scene in the modern game, the guy who throws the first pitch also shakes the catcher’s hand after the 27th out.

McCarthy supplied the Yankees precisely what they needed, a dominant start that spared the bullpen and got the team back on a winning track after two dismal losses to the also-ran Astros that made the Yanks look perilously close to also-rans themselves.

“It’s a good thing,” McCarthy said matter-of-factly afterwards. “I mean, of all the things you can do on a mound, that’s pretty high up there.”

It was the first nine-inning complete game for a Yankees pitcher this year not named Masahiro Tanaka, who is currently on the disabled list. Tanaka has three complete games, including one shutout May 14 against the Mets at Citi Field.

McCarthy said he began feeling fatigued in the middle innings and was berated by his catcher, Francisco Cervelli, to kick himself back into gear. “He was yelling at me,” McCarthy said, “saying things like, ‘You’re stuff is too good. Make sure you execute.’ It sustained me until that second rush of adrenalin kicked in.”

“He wasn’t in trouble much today,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has been really, really good since his first start with us. We knew he was a better pitcher than the numbers indicated.”

The numbers to which Girardi referred were the righthander’s statistics in the first half of this season with the Diamondbacks, a 3-10 record with a 5.10 ERA. In eight starts with the Yankees, McCarthy is 5-2 with a 1.90 ERA. The Yanks were shut out in both his losses. In 10 starts dating to June 27, McCarthy is 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA.

“My pitch mix is better,” McCarthy said. “By returning the cutter and four-seam fastball, they seem to be working and that helps you build confidence.”

It also helped that McCarthy didn’t have to pitch as if he were going uphill because the Yankees gave him a 3-0 lead in the second, the only inning when any runs were scored, on a two-run double by Chase Headley and a sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki.

The Astros’ only real threats were in the fourth and seventh innings. In the fourth, Houston had runners on second and third with two out and McCarthy retired Marc Krauss on a tapper to the mound. The Astros had runners on second and third again in the seventh, this time with one out, and McCarthy responded by striking out Jon Singleton and getting Carlos Corporan on a fly to left.

It was quick work by McCarthy on a day devoted to quick work.

Yankees finding Astros are no pushovers

So much for the Yankees taking advantage of a pair of perceived pushover teams in the current homestand. For the second night in a row, the Yanks were not as good as the Astros. Shaky relief pitching combined with another punchless showing by the offense led to another disappointing night at Yankee Stadium.

Manager Joe Girardi talks daily about his team’s need to win series. Well, here is another lost series as Houston has already taken two of the three games in a set that concludes Thursday afternoon. The Astros have proved tough customers this year for the Yankees, who have lost four of five games against Houston. The White Sox come here over the weekend, and there is no longer any reason for the Yankees to feel cocky against any opponent. They have played only .500 ball (2-2) against Chicago this season.

Time is growing short for the Yankees, who have 38 games left in the season to put something together that will make them more serious contenders for a playoff berth than they have shown thus far. The 5-2 loss Wednesday night dropped them into third place in the American League East 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles and five games out of a wild-card spot.

Michael Pineda in his second start since coming off the disabled list pitched well again and took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning that became a messy frame for the Yankees. Pineda departed after walking the leadoff batter, but relievers David Huff and Esmil Rogers were unable to keep the Astros from taking control of the game.

Huff struck out Jon Singleton and then gave up a single to Marwin Gonzalez. Rogers, who has been pitching effectively since being with the Yankees, gave up four straight singles that so irritated the Stadium crowd that the chorus of boos was the loudest aimed at a Yankees player this season.

The Yankees were not totally anemic offensively. They did have 10 hits and showed aggression on the bases with four steals. Yet they stranded 10 runners and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Yanks’ runs were virtue of a home run by Stephen Drew in the fourth inning and a squeeze bunt by Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth. Drew, who was a late addition to the lineup when Carlos Beltran was scratched because of right elbow soreness, got his fifth homer of the season and his first with the Yankees. Ellsbury batted with two runners on base in both the seventh and the ninth innings with two out and could not break through.

It has become a familiar refrain. The Yankees by averaging 3.9 runs per game this season have given their pitchers too slim a margin for error even against teams that are considered inferior. Yet against the Astros this year it is the Yankees who have been inferior.

Beltran scratched due to barking right elbow

Carlos Beltran’s right elbow remains an issue for the Yankees. He was scratched from Wednesday night’s lineup as the designated hitter against the Astros because of elbow soreness. Derek Jeter was the DH instead with Stephen Drew taking the Captain’s place at shortstop.

Beltran was 0-for-3 with a walk as the DH in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss to Houston and reported soreness in the elbow after his last at-bat when he hit a hard ground ball to shortstop that resulted in an out at the plate as Jacoby Ellsbury failed to score on a contact play.

Prior to Tuesday night, Beltran had played two games in right field at St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays, his first outfield duty for two months. Beltran had been relegated to DH duty only because of a bone spur in the elbow that will require surgery at season’s end.

Entering play Wednesday night, Yankees pitchers own the third-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern major league history (since 1900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They had 1,039 strikeouts and 314 bases on balls (3.31 ratio), trailing only the 2014 Nationals (3.49 entering play Wednesday) and the 2012 Phillies (3.39).

In their last 13 games since Aug. 4, Yankees starters were 4-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 78 2/3 innings. The rotation had a 3.87 ERA for the season. Yankees starters had a sub-4.00 starters ERA just twice in 30 previous seasons from 1984-2013 (3.97 in 2002 and 3.85 in 1998). They were 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 home games since the All-Star break. They allowed four earned runs or fewer in each of those games and two of fewer in 12 of them.

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