Wednesday night the Yankees went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and Thursday afternoon they went 1-for-11 against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Thursday 3-1 loss was the first series loss for the Yankees at home to the Rays since July of 2014. Obvious this does not go well for a team that has the second best record in baseball.
Then again, the Yankees have been struggling in August. And the struggle is more evident without Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in the lineup and if it weren’t for Giancarlo Stanton, who drove in the lone run in the eighth inning Thursday, where would the offense be?
Manager Aaron Boone is aware. His team is not scoring runs at home, at least not as many runs as his team was accustomed to doing at home in the first half of this season. But scoring runs all of a sudden have become the issue and the Yankees bats are going cold at the wrong time.
And it’s not the Red Sox to be concerned about who have taken control of the division. The Al wild card race is getting close with Oakland and Seattle on the Yankees trail, and before there is a call to panic the Yankees know what has to be done.
They need to get the bats going again. If they trail early in a game because the starting pitching is not effective, as was the case with Masahiro Tanaka and a two-run first inning, then they need to score runs. The Yankees had many of those games this season of trailing early and now without Judge and Sanchez they are finding it is more difficult to score and play catch up ball.
Panic? Not yet. The Yankees are this offensive machine and will explode again. Judge will be out longer than expected and Sanchez, who struggled all season before hitting the DL on July 24th, is on the way back and will be in a few rehab games next week.
However, this is now the first time to say that the Yankees are beatable. And when you lose two of three to teams in your division that are playing out the season, it can be said that the Yankees for the first time this season are a team that can be beat.
And not scoring with runners in the right place, well you can be beat.
“We have capable people to put runs on the board,” manager Aaron Boone said. He was asked if the void of Judge and Sanchez was having this impact with lack of production. Boone got around the answer but statistics tell the story and this Yankees team, and at the wrong time of year, is in this offensive swoon.
The Yankees scored one run in back-to-back games, six in the three games with Tampa Bay. Only the third time this season they have scored one run or fewer in consecutive games after this 3-1 loss.
They left the bases loaded in the ninth inning. However that ninth inning was further proof about the Yankees struggles and recent failures. Bases loaded and nobody out and the Rays’ pen looks like they will let this one get away. But Greg Bird pops out in foul territory behind the plate, followed by Brett Gardner and Austin Romine swinging on strikes.
“Had some opportunities,” Boone said. “And when you’re not scoring runs in bunches or hitting the ball out of the ballpark, you got to take advantage of those and that one got away there for us. It’s frustrating but you deal with it and get ready for Toronto.”
Bird is another story here and failing to produce as that everyday player. And Gleyber Torres, once a lock for AL Rookie of The Year singled in that ninth inning and broke that 0-for-17 slide.
But it comes down to this, and it is obvious no matter what the record says, the Yankees are not a very good team right now, 9-17 in their last 26 teams against teams in their division. The only team above .500 in the AL East are the Rays at 62-59, though the Yankees started the season 18-9 against teams in their division.
So Toronto comes to the Bronx for the weekend. Will it be any better? Aaron Boone is not worried about the Red Sox, and he should not be as Oakland and Seattle are hot on the trail. But the Yankees manager only said the focus is the Toronto Blue Jays the next three games.
And the focus should also be on counting the days for the return of Gary Sanchez to the lineup and Aaron Judge to follow. If not, and if the starting pitching can’t get this team through five or six innings, well then it could be time to panic down the stretch.