The Yankees (61-51) lost to the Cleveland Indians, 2-1, in the second game of the series as the offense only had four hits in the game. The Yankees have now scored only nine runs in their last seven games and that low run output has led to them losing six of those games.
As a result of the Toronto Blue Jays 10-game winning streak the Yankees are half a game out of first and are now in second place for the first time since July 1. “Obviously you want to be in first place,” Girardi said. “The end date is the most important date to be there. It is going to come down to what we do the next 50 games or whatever we’ve got left.”
Brian McCann’s homer in the second inning was the only run that the Yankees scored in the game. McCann’s 19 homers this season leads all MLB catchers. “We just have to show up tomorrow and get a win,” McCann said.
Danny Salazar, who only allowed one run in 7.1 innings and had 8 strikeouts, retired the side in order in the third and fourth innings and the Yankees had trouble hitting his overpowering fastball. Salazar has now allowed a combined two earned runs in his last three starts and besides McCann’s homer the Yankees only got a runner to second or third twice against him.
The Yankees were 0-3 with runners in scoring position, were 1-11 with runners on base and Alex Rodriguez hit into two double plays. The top of the lineup continued to struggle as the 1-4 hitters went a combined 2-13 with five strikeouts. The top of the lineup needs to contribute offensively if the Yankees are going to win consistently again.
“I thought we swung the bats better,” Girardi said. “They made some good plays. We hit some balls deep. Unfortunately we were not able to do much.”
One positive was that the pitching continued to do its job for the team. CC Sabathia allowed 11 base runners in his six innings pitched, but he was able to limit the Indians to only two runs in six innings while recording two strikeouts and pitching very effectively with runners on base. He got Chris Johnson to hit into a double play to end the third and got Johnson to hit into another double play to end the fifth after the Indians scored their first run.
Sabathia, who lowered his ERA from 5.34 to 5.23, has now pitched well in his last two starts as he allowed one earned run, eight strikeouts and only three hits in six innings in his start last week against the Red Sox. He is improving since he has allowed three runs combined in his last two starts after allowing 10 runs in his previous two starts.
“I think my stuff was better last time,” Sabathia said. “My main focus is always to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win. I think I accomplished that tonight.” Limiting the opposition to two runs while allowing 11 base runners is very impressive and he pitched well enough to earn his 213th win of his career.
“He is working the ball in and out,” McCann said. “He is getting the cutter in. He made some huge pitches tonight.” McCann got to first in the ninth after Roberto Perez’s throw after his dropped third strike hit him, and John Ryan Murphy ran for him, but he was stranded at first after Carlos Beltran lined out and Didi Gregorius struck swinging to end the game.
The Yankees were coming off of a 16-inning marathon of a game so they needed some distance from Sabathia. He was able to throw 110 pitches, which is tied for the most he has thrown this season.
“I knew I had to lean on him tonight, but he was still throwing the ball well,” Girardi said about Sabathia. “I stuck with him.”
Hal Steinbrenner, who is the managing general partner of the Yankees, still has confidence in the team and its chance of winning the division. “I said in the offseason several times that if we stayed healthy, which is something we haven’t been able to do the last couple years, and if the middle of the lineup produced, which they didn’t do last year, then we were going to be contenders, and we are,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday from baseball’s owners meetings in Chicago. “It’s still ours to lose.”
The Yankees offense is trending the wrong way at the wrong time, with their power hitters, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, struggling, but there is still time for them to find their swing and hit like they did earlier in the season. The Blue Jays will also not continue to win games at the pace that they have been.
The Yankees will play the series finale on Thursday night and the offense will look to bounce back and prevent a sweep to the last place Indians. Nathan Eovaldi will be pitching for the Yankees and the erratic Trevor Bauer will get the start for Cleveland.