Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

Yankees acquire Headley from Padres

As to the question that has been floating around as the July 31 trade deadline nears of whether the Yankees will be buyers or sellers, it was answered by general manager Brian Cashman Tuesday with the acquisition of third baseman Chase Headley from the Padres for infielder Yangervis Solarte, Class A Tampa pitcher Rafael De Paula and cash.

Let’s not carried away. Headley is no savior. Two years ago, the switch hitter, 30, finished fifth in the voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league in RBI with 115 and batting .286 with 31 home runs. He slipped to .250 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI a year ago, and this season has been plagued by back problems while hitting .229 with seven homers and 32 RBI.

Headley can be a free agent at season’s end, so he is in essence a rental player and one who has plenty of incentive to have a big finish and put up the kind of offensive numbers that will make him attractive in the open market over the winter and perhaps give the Yankees a lift in their pursuit of a postseason berth, preferably as the American League East division winner.

The Yankees’ signing of Solarte to a minor-league deal figured into this trade. They took a flier on an eight-year minor leaguer, who worked hard to make the team as a utility player and had a delirious six-week run early on that made him a feel-good story at the time and a valuable bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

Solarte, 27, batted .254 with 26 runs, 14 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBI in 75 games and 252 at-bats with the Yankees. He also played in five games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and hit .600 with three doubles, one triple and five RBI in 20 at-bats.

De Paula, 23, was 6-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) covering 89 innings for Tampa. He was originally signed by the Yankees as a minor-league free agent Nov. 18, 2010.

Headley was en route to New York from Chicago but was not expected at Yankee Stadium by game time. Kelly Johnson, who has shared third base with Solarte and Zelous Wheeler this year, found himself in right field for the first time as a major leaguer. With Mark Teixeira unavailable because of a left lat strain, Brian McCann started at first base with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate.

Weird inning hurts Kuroda, Yanks back at .500

On the mound at Camden Yards for the Yankees Friday night was the last survivor of their Opening Day rotation, and he gave them what they desperately needed from a starting pitcher — length.

Hiroki Kuroda is still part of the starting unit while former mates Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have all gone off to the disabled list, some of whom not to return in 2014.

The Yankees departed Cleveland with a fatigued bullpen, so the seven innings Kuroda gave them was heaven sent. Only one of those innings was a clinker, but that was enough to let the Orioles tie the score.

It was a strange fourth inning for Kuroda, who blew the 2-0 lead provided by solo home runs from Brian Roberts in the second and Kelly Johnson in the third off Miguel Gonzalez, who recovered to hold the Yankees scoreless with only three more hits through the eighth.

Kuroda gave up only one hit in the fourth, a bad-hop single past Derek Jeter by Adam Jones, which came after the righthander hit Steve Pearce with a pitch leading off the inning. Kuroda then uncorked two wild pitches, one that advanced the runners and another one out later that send Pearce home. A sacrifice fly by Chris Davis tied the score.

The score stayed that way until the 10th inning when Orioles catcher Nick Hundley lined a single to center field off Adam Warren to score Manny Machado, who had led off the inning with a double. Warren followed Dellin Betances, who was brilliant once again with two hitless innings featuring three more strikeouts. The rookie All-Star’s 84 punchouts are the most for any reliever in the majors.

The Yankees’ offense sputtered as it managed only one hit over the last six innings. The Orioles’ 3-2 victory pushed the third-place Yankees five games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East as they fell back to .500 at 46-46.

That the game went into extra innings was not what the Yankees wanted by any means, not just two nights after playing 14 innings in Cleveland. It was the Yankees’ fourth extra-inning game in their past 11 games, which is why the relief squad is so weary.

The Yankees added some pitching Friday by recalling Matt Daley from Triple A Scranton and designating Jim Miller for assignment. They also acquired Jeff Francis from Oakland for cash and a player to be named, but the lefthander was not expected to join the team until Saturday. He could be a candidate to start Sunday night in the opening created by Tanaka’s assignment to the DL because of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Francis, 33, is 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA in a career covering 238 appearances (217 starts) with the Rockies, (2004-10, ’12-13), Royals (2011), Reds (2014) and Athletics (2014). This season he is a combined 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) with the Reds and A’s. He last pitched July 2 for Oakland in a 9-3 loss at Detroit.

Yanks fall below .500, latest in season since ’07

South of .500 went the Yankees Wednesday on what should have been a feel-good day with a special ceremony commemorating Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech of 75 years ago. A moving video before the game featured Derek Jeter and baseball’s 30 current first baseman reading the entire text of the Iron Horse’s impromptu address in which he essentially bid farewell to the sport because of his illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that now bears his name.

The 6-3 loss to the Rays before a crowd of 42,343 at Yankee Stadium was a dismal end to a very disappointing homestand as well as a 15-game stretch against American League East foes in which they could have made some real headway.

“It started off good and ended badly,” Girardi said of the stretch in which the Yankees swept a three-game set from the Blue Jays and proceeded to lose nine of the next 12 games, including the past five in a row, their longest losing steak of the season. “We lost every series after sweeping Toronto and had chances to win a number of games.”

You probably keep reading media accounts of how the Yankees are in the market to improve their pitching. Well, during the past homestand, pitching was the least of their problems. The Yanks’ staff pitched to a 3.16 ERA in the six games. That is good enough to win a lot more than one game usually.

A greater problem for the Yankees is their offense. They averaged 3.17 runs per game in the homestand while hitting .222 as a team and slugging .362, appalling numbers. They batted .146 in 41 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees were without two of their most productive hitters, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury, in Wednesday’s game due to minor ailments. Tex had fluid drained from his right knee while Ellsbury, in manager Joe Girardi’s words, was “banged up.”

Yet a lineup in which the 3-through-6 hitters were all batting under .230 managed to get 10 hits, including home runs by Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, but were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“We swung the bat better, but in a couple of rallies we couldn’t get the big hit,” Girardi said. “We’re being outscored and out-hit at home.”

The Yankees’ record at the Stadium is 18-23. Overall, it is 41-42, the first time they have been under .500 since April 11 when they were 5-6 after the 11th game of the season. It is the latest point in a season that the Yankees have been under .500 since 2007 when they were 42-43 July 7. The Yankees went on to a 94-68 record that season and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card entry, so there is still hope.

“I don’t see confidence as a problem,” Girardi said. “I still believe in this team because there is talent in that room. We need to play better.”

Yankees mired in mediocrity

So after 82 games, the Yankees have reached the level of mediocrity. Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rays put the Yankees’ record at 42-42. Another lackluster offensive showing wasted a strong start by Hiroki Kuroda and resulted in the Yanks’ fourth straight loss.

The Yankees’ only run came on a throwing error by the versatile Ben Zobrist, who is playing shortstop these days instead of second base or the outfield because Yunel Escobar is on the disabled list. After that, Jacoby Ellsbury stole second but was stranded as Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran flied out and Alfonso Soriano struck out.

Kuroda pitched well enough to win. He scattered nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings. The Rays bunched three singles for a run in the fourth inning. James Loney led off the sixth with his fifth home run for what proved the winning run.

In the bottom of that inning, Derek Jeter singled and stole second, but the Yankees couldn’t get him home. Ellsbury was called out on strikes. After a walk to Teixeira, Beltran flied out and Soriano looked at a third strike.

In the ninth, Grant Balfour, who has been a bust as a closer (5.34 ERA), walked two batters but escaped danger when Yangervis Solarte grounded out to end the game.

The Yankees had 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Rays weren’t much better (1-for-8), but Tampa Bay is a last-place club that is 12 games under .500. Former Cy Young Award winner David Price had his streak of consecutive double-digit strikeout games end at five but still had nine punchouts, the most he ever totaled in a game against the Yankees. Price raised his career record against them to 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA, including 6-2 with a 3.67 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday’s series finale marks the end of five consecutive sets against American League East competition for the Yankees, who got off to a great start when they swept first-place Toronto, but they have not won a series since. They lost two of three to the Blue Jays in a return engagement at Toronto, two of three to the Orioles, two of three to the Red Sox and the first two games of this series to the Rays. They have gone from 3-0 to 6-8 in this stretch.

Fortunately for the Yankees, mediocrity seems to have hit the entire division. Despite the recent downturn, the Yankees are only 3 1/2 games out of first place. Checking the standings in the other divisions, it would appear that the Yanks would have to win the division in order to make the playoffs because four other clubs are well ahead of them for the two wild card berths. There are 80 games remaining on the schedule, however, plenty of time for the Yankees to change direction, which clearly they must to return to serious contention.

Jays a different club away from Stadium

What a difference a venue makes. Last week at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the first-place Blue Jays that let Toronto know it was not going to run away and hide in the American League East. That sweep ran to 16 games the Yankees’ winning streak at home against the Jays.

The return engagement at Rogers Centre was a different story, at least for Monday night’s series opener. The Blue Jays struck early and often in their own building to end Chase Whitley’s good luck charm on the road with an 8-3 victory.

The Yankees had been 5-0 in road games started by Whitley, the Triple A call-up who has done a splendid job in plugging up one of the holes in the injury-riddled rotation. The Alabama righthander did not have it this night, however, as Toronto burst out to a 7-0 lead after two innings. That marked as many runs as Whitley allowed over his four previous starts combined covering 24 2/3 innings.

Melky Cabrera, who has tormented his former teammates since he left after the 2009 season, got the ball rolling for the Jays with a one-out double in the first inning. Adam Lind, batting in the 3-hole with Jose Bautista out because of hamstring problems, knocked in Cabrera with a single.

Lind did quite a bit more damage in the six-run Toronto second inning. The Jays loaded the bases with none out on three straight singles. A fielder’s choice and an RBI single by Cabrera made the score 3-0 before Lind broke the game open with a three-run home run over the center field wall.

Cabrera extended his hitting streak against the Yankees to 20 games. During the stretch, he has batted .349 with seven doubles, one triple and one home run in 83 at-bats. Melky has reached base safely in all 22 career games against his former club. The last player with a 20-game hitting streak against the Yankees was also named Cabrera, the Tigers’ Miguel (no relation) from 2006-10.

Whitley, who had walked only four batters in his seven prior starts totaling 38 2/3 innings, walked the first two guys up in the fourth and appeared gassed. Dioner Navarro singled to drive in the Blue Jays’ eighth run, which forced manager Joe Girardi to go to the bullpen.

The relief work of David Huff and Shawn Kelley were bright spots for the Yankees. Huff pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed one hit and two walks with three strikeouts and a wild pitch. Kelley struck out the side in the eighth and gave up one hit.

It was the first poor outing for Whitley, who was charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings as his ERA hiked from 2.56 to 4.07. The righthander allowed 11 hits and three walks with one strikeout and one wild pitch.

Marcus Stroman, who could not get through the fourth inning last week at the Stadium, pitched a solid eight for the Blue Jays this time. The righthander from Long Island gave up one run on Mark Teixeira’s 13th homer and only two other hits, singles by Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki, and had seven strikeouts.

Considering the state of the Yankees’ offense these days, the hole Whitley put his team in was too great out of which for his teammates to climb. The Yankees did score a couple of runs in the ninth off Chad Jenkins. Yangervis Solarte, who entered the game in the eighth, stopped a 0-for-28 slump with an RBI single, and Kelly Johnson doubled in a run.

Those were the Yankees’ only runs other than the two from a pair of homers by Teixeira over the past 27 innings for the Yankees, who fell 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, a sign that they were no longer at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees glad to get back home

The Yankees’ West Coast swing that looked so promising there for a while ended with a thud. After an uplifting, 7-0 victory in Oakland Friday night that followed their three-sweep of the Mariners in Seattle, the Yankees dropped the last two games to the Athletics, who’s best record in the American League is clearly no fluke.

The Yanks managed only three hits off Scott Kazmir through six innings and two relievers retired them in order over the final three innings in a 5-1 setback Saturday. Vidal Nuno was stung for a pair of three-run homers by Derek Norris and Coco Crisp in the first two innings Sunday as Oakland went on to build a 10-0 lead and coast to a 10-5 victory.

Nuno, who was charged with eight earned runs in three-plus innings, has a bloated 5.90 ERA to go with a 1-3 record, but manager Joe Girardi gave no indication of any change in the rotation upcoming. The skipper has stated he plans to go with the current five starters – three of whom are rookies – until the All-Star break, which is still a month away.

There was some sloppiness involved in the two losses at Oakland. Backup catcher John Ryan Murphy was guilty of three passed balls in two games. Brendan Ryan, inserted in Sunday’s game for defense, made an error. Carlos Beltran forgot the number of outs in the eighth inning while on the bases and wandered himself into a double play. Beltran did hit a home run, which was a sign that he may be ready to break out offensively after his disabled list stint when he received a cortisone shot in his elbow. On the plus side, Derek Jeter batted .435 on the West Coast portion of the recently-completed trip.

The Yankees will stay in their own division for a while, beginning with a three-game series against the AL East-leading Blue Jays that opens the homestand starting Tuesday night. The Orioles come to Yankee Stadium for a three-game set beginning Friday night. The Yankees will then travel to Toronto for a three-game series next week and come home to play three games each against the Red Sox and the Rays before embarking on their final trip leading into the All-Star break.

Sunday in New York: A disappointing split

The first Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in 17 years brought back some nostalgic thoughts, among them that this was awful lot of baseball in one day. For the diehard fans, that was fine. Consider me among those who do not mind two games back-to-back on the same day, provided as it used to be and was again this time that the next day is an open date.

That was the case years ago when clubs had 16 to 18 doubleheaders on their schedule. The economics of the game changed all that. There is no way in this day and age that clubs would concede that many dates. Truth be told, a separate-admission doubleheader may have been scheduled to make up for Friday night’s rainout but conflicts with national television networks FoxSports Saturday and ESPN Sunday forced the Yankees and the Pirates to play a single-admission twin bill Sunday.

Another issue with any doubleheader is fatigue. The Pirates on the last leg of a six-game trip through Milwaukee and New York looked like a tired team. They made two errors that resulted in two runs for the Yanks in the second inning and ran themselves out of two rallies with a couple of blunders on the bases. The Pirates were able to overcome those early lapses to salvage a split of the doubleheader with a 5-3 victory after the Yankees had won the first game, 4-3.

The Yankees did not play all that soundly in the second game, either. They, too, had a pair of errors in the top of the second that gave the Pirates a freebie run. In the first inning, Brett Gardner, who led off with a triple, got picked off third base by a former teammate, catcher Chris Stewart, who hurt the Yankees again the next inning with an RBI single. Stew got a second RBI in the ninth with a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.

“There were a lot of weird things that happened in the first two innings,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Then it became a baseball game.”

Vidal Nuno was following in the string of solid starts this turn in the rotation with no earned runs over the first five innings. The lefthander was stung by a two-run home run by Starling Marte in the sixth that put the Bucs ahead, 3-2, but the Yankees quickly tied it on a homer by Yangervis Solarte in the bottom of that inning.

Josh Harrison’s solo home run off Alfredo Aceves (0-2) with two out in the seventh regained the lead for Pittsburgh. Harrison also made the defensive play of the game one inning later. After Derek Jeter singled as a pinch hitter leading off the eighth, Harrison, who had moved to left field from third base the previous inning when Marte came out of the game with a hamstring injury, made a diving catch on the warning track to rob Solarte of a potential extra-base hit that likely would have scored Jeter with the tying run.

Jeter stayed in the game at shortstop the next inning, which led to an unusual alignment as Ryan moved over to first base. Kelly Johnson started there but was lifted for Jeter. It was the first time in his major-league career that Ryan played the position. He handled one chance without incident.

Mark Teixeira was already in the game as the designated hitter, so moving him would have put the pitcher in the batting order. Ryan had to stay in the game because there were no other infielders available if God forbid one of them got hurt.

The second game was definitely a downer against a team that seemed to be handing them the game at the beginning. Nevertheless, the Yankees ended the day in first place in the American League East and a pitching staff that is making do despite losing three-fifths of its Opening Day rotation to injury. The starters were 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings over this turn in the rotation. It starts all over again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound.

One other piece of nostalgia: This was the Pirates’ first victory at the Stadium since Game 5 of the 1960 World Series and in nine regular-season games during inter-league play.

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

Ironic that Indians should eliminate Yankees

Go back to early April in Cleveland and who would have thought the season would end the way it has for the two clubs on the field in two games at Progressive Field? The Yankees outscored the Indians, 25-7, in those games. Cleveland fans treated former Tribesman Travis Hafner to a standing ovation for his past service as the Yankees newest designated hitter was well on his way to a very productive first month of the season. Many folks in the media were wondering if Terry Francona did a smart thing in going back to the dugout with that franchise.

It just shows how much things can change in six months. The Yankees were eliminated from the race for a postseason berth Wednesday night while the Indians were still in line for a shot at their first postseason appearance in six years. Cleveland still has to fight off the challenges of Texas and Kansas City but no longer has the Yankees to worry about.

The Yanks’ tragic number for elimination was down to one entering play Wednesday night. One more loss or one more Indians victory would knock the Yankees out of the playoff picture. As it turned out, both results happened. The Indians beat the White Sox, 7-2, to eliminate the Yankees, who lost a few minutes later to the Rays, 8-3.

In head-to-head competition, the Yankees were clearly superior to Cleveland this year. They won six of the seven games between them and outscored the Tribe, 49-19. The Yankees batted .295 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI against the Indians and averaged seven runs per game. Yankees pitchers combined for a 2.71 ERA in limiting the Indians to a .205 batting average and 2.71 runs per game.

But over the course of the entire season against all levels of competition, the Yankees finished behind the Indians. For all their success against Cleveland, the Yankees were done in by failing to beat inferior teams when it counted. Losing two of three at San Diego followed by getting swept by the White Sox at Chicago last month was a bad sign. Losing all four games this year to the Mets certainly hurt. And earlier this month after giving fans encouragement by winning three of four games at Baltimore, the Yankees were swept by the American League East winning Red Sox at Boston and then, even worse, dropped two of three to the last-place Blue Jays at Toronto.

Matters did not improve when the Yankees came home. They held the Giants to three runs total in three games but did not sweep the series, which was a must. Tampa Bay beat the Yanks each of the past two nights. Do not expect a spring-training lineup from the Yankees in the final home game of the season Thursday night.

“We have a responsibility to baseball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

What he meant is that the Rays have not yet clinched a postseason berth, so for the sake of the Rangers and the Indians Girardi will field a representative lineup. Whether it will include Alex Rodriguez or not remains to be seen. He was lifted for a pinch hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, in the eighth inning and complained of sore legs.

Phil Hughes (4-14) lasted four batters into the third inning and was hung with another loss, his 10th in 11 decisions at Yankee Stadium this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hughes’ 1-10 mark in 16 home starts made him only the second pitcher in major league history to win fewer than two home games in a season in which he made at least 15 starts at his home yard. The other was the Blue Jays’ Phil Huffman, who was 1-9 in 16 starts at Exhibition Stadium in 1979.

Evan Longoria whacked two home runs and David DeJesus one in a 15-hit Tampa Bay attack that supported last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price (9-8). Say this for Yankees fans. They were on their feet and applauding during an eighth-inning rally despite their team trailing by five runs.

Thursday night will mark the final Stadium appearance by Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Mo will almost certainly get in the game regardless of the score. He is hoping for one more save situation. So are all of us.

Yanks need to start putting up some W’s

I do not want to get overly simplistic about all this, but if the Yankees want to qualify for postseason play they need to start winning some games. It is instructive to a degree to go over all the arithmetic equations involving their competitors and strength of schedule comparisons, but nothing makes the pursuit easier than putting up W’s.

The Yankees came off getting swept in a three-game series at Fenway Park by the first-place team in the American League East and lost the opener of a three-game set at Rogers Centre to the last-place team in the division. People can get all excited about the Rays losing, which means that the Yankees did not lose any ground technically but they did lose another day on the calendar. I got a kick out of Michael Kay and John Flaherty on YES talking about the Yankees being tired. They just had a day off!

It was R.A. Dickey who made the Yankees look tired in the Blue Jays’ 2-0 victory. The knuckleball specialist looked every bit the pitcher he was last year when he won the National League Cy Young Award with the Mets by shutting the Yankees down on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

The Yankees had two-out threats in each of the first two innings against Dickey, who squirmed off the ropes each time. Mark Reynolds struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez grounded out to shortstop with runners on first and second in the second. The Yankees had only three base runners after that on two singles and an error and none of the errors got beyond first base.

If the Yankees were lifted at all by Dickey’s departure, they didn’t show it much as Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen (31st save) threw a scoreless inning apiece to send the Bombers to their 10th blanking of the season, their most in 22 years.

It was a shameful loss to be hung on Andy Pettitte (10-10), who allowed one run on Colby Rasmus’ 21st home run, in the fourth, over 6 2/3 innings. Pettitte has been the Yankees’ most reliable starting pitcher in September but does not have a victory to show for it. In four starts this month, Pettitte is 0-1 with three no-decisions despite a 2.16 ERA in 25 innings.

And Pettitte was out of the game for less than three minutes before the Blue Jays added another run as Rajai Davis greeted reliever Shawn Kelley with his sixth home run of the season. The Yankees cut off a possible third run in the eighth on a sensational relay from shortstop Brendan Ryan to the plate to cut down Adam Lind trying to score from first base on a double by pinch hitter Anthony Gose.

When a play like that is the only highlight, it is not a good sign.

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