The 15 runs the Astros tagged on the Yankees Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, prompting Joe Girardi to put Brendan Ryan on the mound for two innings? That’s humiliating.
The one run the Yankees put up? That’s alarming.
For the Yankees to own any chance of outlasting the fearsome Blue Jays to win the American League East title — and to assure themselves of some level of October participation — they must rediscover at least a portion of the offensive mojo that fueled their surprising rise to the top and showed zero signs of life in, yes, Houston’s 15-1 beatdown in The Bronx that put the Yankees (69-56) a game out of first place as Toronto (70-55) came from behind to edge Texas, 6-5, down in the Lone Star State.
“Our offense hasn’t been as good for us as it was earlier in the year,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to get it going.”
You’d write off this loss as another bullet point on the AL Cy Young Award résumé of Astros starter and winner Dallas Keuchel, if not for the pinstriped trend lines that emerge from the past three weeks.
In their last 20 games, during which time they possess a 9-11 record, the Yankees have scored just 62 runs, or 3.1 per game. They have tallied a .212/.278/.340 slash line.
In their first 105 games, during which time they went 60-45, the Yankees scored 525 runs — exactly five per game. They recorded a .260/.329/.440 slash line. The Yankees have transformed from a multi-cylinder offensive machine to a meek group summoning memories of the droughts that characterized their 2013 and 2014 predecessors.
The damage to their standing would have been even worse if not for their generally reliable pitching, with Tuesday’s Ivan Nova implosion (four-plus innings, seven runs) the obvious exception to that rule.
Nova, Nathan Eovaldi, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino have turned into a generally reliable quartet for the Yankees, with the rookie Severino and the first-year Yankee Eovaldi offering encouragement they can be high-end starters. On Wednesday, the Yankees hope Michael Pineda’s return from the disabled list, after rehabilitating his strained right forearm, goes swimmingly. While CC Sabathia voiced optimism Tuesday he could return this season, his right knee receiving an encouraging diagnosis from Knicks physician Answorth Allen, that remains far from a certainty.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the same goes for an offensive revival. The Yankees employ established, elite hitters in Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Both men, however, have dramatically exceeded their 2015 projections, and both men currently look more fried than Harold and Kumar during their trip to White Castle.
Teixeira started at first base Tuesday, making his first appearance after seven games off to rest a bruised right lower leg, and surely everyone in the announced crowd of 38,015 cringed as Teixeira ran gingerly on a fourth-inning ground out to shortstop. He left the game in the top of the seventh, and Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether the 35-year-old would play in Wednesday’s series finale, a day game.
A-Rod went 0-for-3 with a strikeout before getting lifted, and in 21 August games, 20 of them starts, he has a brutal .145/.261/.263 slash line.
Even Carlos Beltran’s resurgence hasn’t countered the slowdown of his fellow veterans.
“Our offense is important to us,” Girardi reiterated. “We’ve got to score some runs.”
On this wacky night, Girardi could fill up the postgame news conference discussing Ryan’s two shutout frames and taking shots at fiery Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez, whose sixth-inning outburst caused the benches to clear. You only can talk so much about a blowout of this caliber.
Yet in this roller-coaster Yankees campaign, when following the Blue Jays from afar winds up just as captivating as watching the Yankees in person, little question exists over the club’s biggest concern.
It got this far on the shoulders of its lineup. It won’t get much farther if that lineup can’t pick itself up off the floor now.
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