Backwards step for the Yankees with another loss to Astros

By Rich Mancuso

It was Joe Girardi Bobble head night at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night and the manager got booed when he lifted starter Michael Pineda in the sixth inning. The anguish for the Yankees continued and the displeasure from their fans were heard more when the Houston Astros scored four runs in the seventh inning.  

And when any team takes a lead against the Yankees, the lowly Astros or a front runner, there is a good chance they will not score and make the comeback. Such was the case again as the Astros go for a three-game series sweep Thursday afternoon after their 5-2 win in the Bronx.

Now, it is more than panic time for the Yankees who are going backwards instead of forward and seeing their playoff chances dwindle each day. They will try and prevent a sweep of the series in a stretch of seven games this week, also with the Chicago White Sox that could have helped their wild card chances.  

But the Yankees wild card chances are fading each day, losing seven of their last nine games. And unless there is a winning streak on the horizon, this could get worse before they arrive in Detroit next week to play the Tigers, a team that leads the Yankees by five games for that second wild card.

Girardi said, after this latest disappointing loss, “We got to score more than two runs. We’re just not getting it done.  The bottom line is, we can’t worry about who is in front of us.  We need to play better. If we don’t play better we won’t get there.”

Truth is, the reality is starting to set in.  The Yankees are not looking like a playoff team, nor have they resembled one with 37 games remaining. In their last nine games they are batting .135 with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-9 Tuesday night, and 1-for-8  Wednesday in trying to get runners to score with men on base.

Again, it has become a mission in futility. And at this juncture of the season, with every game having significant meaning, trying to figure out why and why not is not going to produce an answer. You hear, this is baseball and there is still some time to get it going, those words coming in a very quiet Yankees post-game clubhouse.

Girardi is now baffled. He can’t recall a time, either in his playing or managerial career when a team with such prominent names struggled to this magnitude. The scouts who sit up in the press box offer the same opinion, though with a perspective that perhaps the Yankees, overall as a team are pressing.

  It has gone so backwards, enough to a point that Girardi was answering questions to a member of the media in the post game about possibly shifting positions in the lineup. Batting, maybe Jeter at cleanup and moving             Jacoby Ellsbury to the third spot, and the manager quickly knocked that down.

He is the manager. And apparently a lineup he has, with experience and numbers to prove, should be and is expected to be producing at a better rate. That continues to not happen for any number of reasons that have the baseball experts perplexed. Either the roster on the field is playing below expectations, or these veteran hitters are past their prime and in their final years.  The seventh inning continued to support a dilemma that the Yankees can’t seem to figure for themselves.  

This time after Pineda left the game, which prompted fans to boo, the bullpen imploded again as it did the night before. The results was working from behind again and failing to get the big comeback hit.

David Huff and Esmil Rogers combined to give up four runs in relief of Pineda that gave away a one-run lead. After Pineda walked a batter to start the seventh, Huff got an out and gave up a hit.  Rogers gave up five straight singles and the Yankees were behind 5-2.

A highlight of the night was Brett Gardner making a grab of a foul ball as he fell into the stands making a catch over the cement barrier down the left field foul in the ninth inning. He also tried to ignite something with a single to center with two outs in the Yankees ninth.  If anything, he has proved to be the MVP of this team. Jeter followed and worked a walk off Jose Veras.

 So the tying runs were on for Ellsbury who came to bat after with two singles and two stolen bases on the night. Of course, the futility continued with a fly ball to right and another loss for the Yankees in this stretch of games that should have been in the win column.

Before that, against starter Scott Feldman, whom the Yankees made into a Cy Young Award look alike, Mark Teixeira struck out the first of two times and Brian McCann popped out to end a rally. Gardner ended an inning with runners on second and third, and in the seventh in was Ellsbury again striking out with runners on second and third.    

Bottom line, the Yankees need to play better but time is not on their side as they continue to go backwards.

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