Pineda Strong in Return, but Yankees Drop Two Straight in Baltimore
It seems like all season long the Yankees have been waiting for a hero, that hypothetical missing piece that will propel them to a playoff berth. How many conversations among Yankee fans this season began with “Once they make a trade and bring in a big hitter…” or “Once Tanaka comes back…” and ended with “They’ll get going.”
Well, we’re heading into the dog days of August and the Yankees have yet to “get going.” Their longest winning streak of the year has been a mere four games, and very often, they follow up a small winning streak with several losses in a row.
Add it all up and the Yankees find themselves only three games over .500, eight games back in the division, three and a half behind the second wild card (certainly the more important stat these days) and in serious danger of falling into fourth place this weekend. They play the Rays–a team that had supposedly packed it in after trading David Price–and away, to boot. Tropicana Field hasn’t exactly been friendly to the Yankees over the last few years. And if the Rays were supposed to throw in the towel after the trade deadline, they didn’t get the memo; they’ve gone 15-8 since the All-Star break.
Wednesday night was primed to be yet another (false) ray of hope for Yankee fans. Michael Pineda, he of the under-2 ERA prior to his suspension for pine tar use and subsequent injury, was set to start for the first time since April 23. And he pitched well; he was perfect through four against the Orioles and gave up only two hits and one earned run in the five innings he pitched.
But everyone seems to have forgotten that the Yankees’ problem this year, despite the utter decimation of their rotation, has not been their starting pitching. It’s been the fact that they have unceremoniously lost the right to call themselves the Bronx Bombers. Yes, having Pineda back is great, especially given how dominating he appeared on Wednesday. But you can have all the under-2 ERA pitchers in the world; if you can’t score more than a run or two in a game, you’re toast.
This week, the Yankees had their last legitimate chance to make a stab at the division. In both of their games at Camden Yards (one was rained out), they jumped out early leads. On Monday, with the score tied 1-1, they took advantage of some sloppy Oriole defense in the top of the second to take the lead, 3-1. However, there was no Yankee offense to speak of after that; the Orioles ended up blowing them out 11-3. All told, the supposedly formidable (and expensive) Yankee lineup managed only five hits off of Oriole pitching (0-for-8 with runners in scoring position) and a game they seemed poised to take early ended up being a laughter with the Yankees on the wrong end of the joke. They also wasted a decent outing by Chris Capuano (6 IP, 6 hits, 4 ER).
After Tuesday’s rainout, Yankee fans appeared to have something to look forward to in Pineda’s much-ballyhooed return. He didn’t disappoint, but once again the offense did. Francisco Cervelli’s two-run shot in the top of the third staked him to 2-0 lead. Cervelli has been subbing for Brian McCann, who is out with a concussion. Overall, McCann has been another disappointment in the lineup as a hitter who never quite “got going” over the course of the season.
Yankee pitching managed to hold a slim 2-1 lead until the eighth inning. Dellin Betances came in for his third straight inning after dealing in the sixth and seventh and surrendered a game-tying solo shot to Jonathan Schoop. Joe Girardi then brought in Sean Kelley, who promptly served up a three-run shot to Adam Jones. In the blink of an eye, the Yankees lost control of a game they seemed poised to win. They did show glimmers of life in the ninth, scoring a run on a couple of hits and a ground ball out, but it was too little too late.
Too little too late—you can’t help but think that even if the Yankees attempt to make a run for the playoffs, it will fall under that category. They had all season to get going, but they just may have reached the point where the opportunities have run out.
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