The same problems that plagued the Yankees in June have spilled over into July. The offense continues to struggle, while the bullpen aside from Mariano remains a crapshoot. In yesterday’s ball game, Arod was able to salvage a win despite an otherwise lack luster effort from the offense, but today the Yankees were not so lucky. If changes aren’t made or a bat added, the Yankees luck is eventually going to run out.
Recounting all of the Yankees missed opportunities in today’s game would overload the internet’s bandwidth. Inning after inning, the Yankees put men on base, but each time they came up empty, extending a hitless stretch with runners on base to 18 at bats. Of course, anyone following the team closely probably isn’t surprised by the lack of production. Since early June, the offense has been trending down, but the Yankees organization has done little to remedy the problem. As a result, the lineup regularly features an out or two, while the bench remains populated by minor league journeyman. For a team with the resources of the Yankees, that level of neglect is shameful.
Of further concern is both Robinson Cano (2 for his last 16) and Brett Gardner (0-7 since returning from being hit on the wrist) have joined the rest of the team in a lineup-wide slump. Cano and Gardner had been the two lone stalwarts in June, so their lack of production has really been a drain. Whether it’s acquiring another bat or promoting a prospect like Austine Romine, the Yankees are sorely in need of a boost, but is Cashman paying attention?
There was one small bright spot amid an otherwise bleak afternoon at the Stadium. With Dave Eiland back in the dugout, AJ Burnett turned in a very strong performance, keeping the Jays off the board for 6 2/3 innings before departing to a standing ovation. Boos had been accompanying Burnett’s departures as he stumbled through June, but on this afternoon, he was able to hold his head high. Aside from not surrendering a run, Burnett’s most encouraging achievement was his ability to handle adversity, particularly in the second and third innings when the Jays put two runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, Burnett wasn’t able to record a well deserved victory because in addition to receiving little run support, he was abandoned by his bullpen as well.
In what is becoming an all too common event, Joba Chamberlain once again blew a late inning lead. The Yankees’ erratic reliever was actually lucky to escape without surrendering the lead as a spectacular catch by Gardner against the left field wall prevented further damage. By the end of his outing, however, the boos that alluded Burnett finally and deservedly rained down on Chamberlain.
After Mariano pitched a scoreless ninth, Dave Robertson was entrusted with the extra innings. Robertson did wiggle his way through the 10th, but eventually surrendered the go ahead run in the 11th before departing with the bases loaded and one out. At the point, Girardi turned to the flammable Chan Ho Park who stayed true to form and presided over an additional four runs. Why Park not only continues to remain on the roster, but also pitch meaningful innings is a mystery, but with all of the other confounding moves by Girardi, that will have to remain a question for another day.
Girardi’s biggest flub in the game was failing to have Francisco Cervelli bunt with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the sixth. Cervelli’s slump has been considerable, but Girardi allowed two hits in the game to dissuade him from what was obvious bunt situation. With Burnett pitching well and the Jays offense scuffling even worse than the Yankees, one extra run could have been a knock punch. Instead, Girardi allowed Cervelli to swing away, and he promptly bounced into a double play. Girardi used Posada’s lack of speed as his main alibi for erring with the decision, but the one thing the Yankees do have on the bench is speed. Excuses aside, the real culprit was Girardi’s systematic lack of creativity that has cost the Yankees during his tenure as manager.
The failure to bunt wasn’t Girardi’s only mistake in the game. In fact, the most glaring was the one he made just before Opening Day, and which he has remained committed to despite evidence to the contrary. By installing Joba as the “8th inning” guy before he actually earned it, Girardi has cost the Yankees a handful of victories. Chamberlain’s poor command has made him much too inconsistent to be regularly trusted with close and late situations, yet Girardi has continued to go with him regardless of the context. Compounding the Joba reflex in this game was the silly use of Damaso Marte to close out the seventh against the light hitting Fred Lewis. By burning Marte in that inning, he wasn’t available to pitch to the dangerous Adam Lind in the 9th. Lind had been 7-12 against Joba before the inning, and his eventual single helped set up the tying run.
Bad offense, bad relief pitching and bad managing: that trifecta added up another bad loss. Instead of putting space between themselves and their division rivals, the Yankees have ignored their weaknesses and hidden behind the veil of having the league’s best record. If the organization doesn’t address the team’s glaring flaws sooner than later, they will no longer have that record to provide them with a false sense of security.
AJ Burnett’s Pitch Breakdown
|Avg. Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes||Percentage|
|Four Seam Fastball||93.2||94.9||60||40||66.7%|