After a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Labor Day afternoon, the New York Yankees are now just 19-24 since taking a 10-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and a 10½-game edge over the Rays on July 18.
Since then, Baltimore is 28-15 and Tampa Bay 27-16 and the Yankee lead in the American League East has shrunk to a single game over the O’s and 2½ over the Rays.
Monday’s loss epitomized much of what has gone wrong for the Yankees for the last month and a half or so.
Outside of their three-run, four-hit outburst in the fourth inning, New York mustered one hit (or as Bob Uecker’s delightful Harry Doyle once opined in “Major League,” “one &$)@*$ hit?”). The Yankees did go 2-for-7 in the game with runners in scoring position and left only four men on base—a byproduct of seldom getting men on base is that it is much tougher to strand them there.
In three September games (admittedly a very small sample size), the Yankees are hitting a less-than-robust .170 as a team with 15 hits in 88 at-bats. Nick Swisher is scuffling to start the month. He’s just 2-for-12 in September after closing August with an ugly four-strikeout night against the Orioles on Friday.
The last time the Yankees had double-digits in hits was in their 4-2 win at Cleveland on Aug. 26, when they banged out 11 hits. The last time New York scored more than five runs was the next night at home against Toronto, when the Yankees slugged four home runs but lost to the Blue Jays 8-7. That was also the last time first baseman Mark Teixeira played. He left the game with a calf injury and has missed six straight games through Monday.
But the slide at the plate began for some players in August. Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez each hit .196 for the month with Granderson providing the added bonus of 31 strikeouts in 97 at-bats. Teixeira, counted on to provide the power with Alex Rodriguez out with a broken hand, hit just .150 and drove in only 10 runs. Andruw Jones provided next to nothing as a spare outfielder, hitting .143 in 42 August at-bats.
Fueled by strong months from Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees did manage to hit .268 for the month.
The Yankees seem to particularly struggle when the long ball isn’t working. Monday’s game against Tampa Bay marked the 24th time this season New York hasn’t gone deep and their record in those games fell to 4-20.
Usually reliable David Robertson allowed three hits and the go-ahead run in the eighth after taking over for CC Sabathia, who gave the Yankees a workmanlike seven innings.
The bullpen, outside of Robertson and closer Rafael Soriano, has been uniformly dreadful since the calendar rolled over to August. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Robertson and Soriano have combined for a 2.31 ERA and 0.92 WHIP since Aug. 1. The rest of the bullpen? Try 5.18 and 1.66.
Joba Chamberlain, despite limited work, may be contributing much to those ugly relief numbers. In nine appearances since Aug. 1, Chamberlain has worked 7.2 innings, allowed 17 hits, walked five, struck out five, given up two home runs and allowed 9 earned runs. That’s an ERA of 10.57 and his WHIP over that period is a hideous 2.87. At this point, it’s baffling to me why manager Joe Girardi keeps running him out there at all.
With Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda the only starters who can be counted on to work deep into games virtually every time it’s their turn in the rotation, it makes it even more important for the bullpen to be able to get outs when the Yankees need them. Unfortunately, as the Yankee lead in the East has dwindled, those outs have been harder and harder to come by.