BOSTON - Alex Rodriguez's body continues to break down, Ivan Nova can't get enough people out and the offense again is sputtering.
But remarkably, even after last night's embarrassing 9-2 loss that completed a three-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Yankees aren't leaving town completely buried in the AL wild-card race. Not with Tampa Bay's enduring struggles and the Rangers going through a Texas-sized slump.
The Yankees (79-71), who remained three games behind the Rays and Rangers in the chase for a wild-card berth, are off Monday before starting a three-game series in Toronto Tuesday night. The schedule does appear to get easier starting Tuesday and continuing this weekend against the Giants, who are battling it out for last in the NL West.
But more baseball like what the Yankees produced this weekend will put thoughts of a wild-card berth to bed.
The Red Sox took six of seven games from the Yankees the past two weekends, scoring 59 runs in the process. Daniel Nava had four of Boston's 11 hits Sunday night, and the Yankees managed only eight hits in the final two games of the series. To add insult to injury, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia stole home on the front end of a double steal.
Speaking of injuries, the ones incurred by the Yankees continue to mount, though Alfonso Soriano did return to the lineup after missing Saturday's game with a sprained right thumb.
There is the matter of A-Rod, who tweaked his left hamstring Tuesday night in Baltimore and started the next five games at designated hitter. He came out of last night's game in the fifth inning with a tight right calf.
With the Yankees trailing 4-1, Vernon Wells stepped into the on-deck circle for Rodriguez, who had been 1-for-2 with an RBI. "It's a concern," Joe Girardi said of the hamstring injury two days ago. Now there's a new concern for the 38-year-old Rodriguez, who has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last six seasons.
Nova also provided injury news last Tuesday against the Orioles, leaving that start after five innings and 69 pitches with tightness in his right triceps.
When asked before last night's game if he had lingering concerns about Nova's triceps, Girardi said, "This has not been a one-time thing. He's dealt with this for a while and we've managed it."
Nova lasted 88 pitches this time, giving way to Adam Warren with his team behind 5-1 and the bases loaded.
The first batter Warren faced, Mike Napoli, has tortured the Yankees all season and already had a two-run homer in the first inning that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead. He entered the at-bat against Warren 21-for-54 (.389) with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 16 games against the Yankees this season, but the righthander struck him out. Warren ended up getting out of the inning without allowing a run.
Nova, who had allowed a combined seven runs in his previous two games but entered this game 4-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his previous eight starts, took the mound with a lead, although it didn't last long.
Curtis Granderson led off with a walk and went to third when Clay Buchholz (11-0, 1.51 ERA) committed a throwing error trying to pick him off first. Rodriguez's grounder to short made it 1-0. But the Yankees would not score again until the ninth, when Ichiro Suzuki's two-out RBI single made it 9-2.
The lead did not last the inning. Daniel Nava launched a one-out double to right and David Ortiz slashed an RBI single to left. With two outs, Napoli smashed Nova's 2-and-0 pitch over the wall in dead center for his 22nd homer and a 3-1 lead.
The Red Sox added a run in the fourth on a play seen more often in youth leagues than the majors.
Napoli drew a leadoff walk and was replaced on the bases when Saltalamacchia grounded into a 4-5 forceout at second. It very well might have been a double play, but Mark Reynolds' relay throw hit the sliding Napoli square on the right hand. Girardi came out to argue interference with second-base umpire Ted Barrett to no avail.
Chris Stewart's passed ball and Stephen Drew's groundout moved Saltalamacchia to third with two outs. Nova then walked Xander Bogaerts, setting the stage for Boston's next run.
With Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate, Bogaerts took off for second. When Stewart threw down to Ryan, the throw was a bit low and the shortstop could not handle it. That allowed Saltalamacchia, who took off as soon as Stewart released the ball, to score easily, making it 4-1.
Nova hit Mike Carp with a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth for a 5-1 lead. RBI singles by Nava and Ortiz in the sixth gave the Red Sox a 7-1 lead, and Dustin Pedroia added a two-out, two-run double in the seventh.