Royals’ starter Bryan Bullington channeled his inner Dick Drago by shutting down the Yankees 1-0. Meanwhile, the entire Yankee lineup did their best Celerino Sanchez impersonation. That combination resulted in a second loss by the Yankees to the hapless Royals, whose 48-69 record belies a roster depleted by several trade deadline deals. So much for making hay against bad teams.
In the early going, it looked as if the performance of AJ Burnett was going to be the Yankees’ main concern, but after surrendering a first inning run (aided by Francisco Cervelli’s throwing error), and allowing the first two batters in the second to reach base, the enigmatic righty turned on the switch and mowed through the Royals lineup. Over the final six innings, Burnett surrendered only two walks and two hits, while striking out six, five of which came on the knuckle curve.
Usually, when AJ Burnett pitches well, the Yankees win, but for the second consecutive start the lineup failed to provide the necessary run support. Since the calendar turned to August, the Yankees’ offense has taken a collective nosedive (3.9 runs/game with a .698 OPS), but being completely shutdown by 29-year old journeyman Bullington represented a new low.
The most shocking thing about the offensive decline in the month of August has been the historic levels of futility. Earlier in the week, the Yankees tied a franchise record for most strikeouts in a nine inning game, and this afternoon, the team sent 28 or fewer men to the plate for only the 19th time since 1920. Also since 1920, the team has had only 72 games with three or fewer base runners. After today’s defeat at the hands of Bullington, the Yankees have two such games this month alone. Finally, the Yankees lost a 1-0 game to the Royals for the first time since 1972, when Jim Rooker and Drago shutdown the Bombers in two games of the same series on June 9 and 11, respectively.
Despite leading the league in runs scored, the Yankees have struggled with the bats for extended periods of time. It’s hard to complain when you consider the Yankees still have the best record in baseball, but by limping through August with a 6-8 record, the team has forfeited an opportunity to build a comfortable lead over the similarly struggling Rays and Red Sox.
Although the Yankees seem content to rest of on their laurels, the lineup’s month long futility should be sounding alarm bells. Best record or not, a shakeup is in order, and the most likely spot is behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli’s continued impotence with the bat has now been matched by his equally poor defense, including two more misplays in today’s game (an errant throw on a stolen base attempt in the first and another poor throw on an attempted advance in the eighth). In the last 10 games alone, Cervelli’s glove and bat have proven to be the chief culprit in three of the team’s five losses, so continued tolerance of his poor performance seems curious. With Jesus Montero absolutely raking at triple-A, the time for his promotion has been long overdue. The Yankees can either turn a blind eye to the historically poor offensive performances put forth this month or proactively seek to address the team’s glaring weaknesses.
The dog days have begun. It’s time for the Yankees to stop chasing their tails.
Summer Futility: Lowest Offensive Outputs* Since 1920
*Three or fewer base runners allowed and 28 or fewer batters faced by an opposing pitcher(s) in a 9 inning game.