The Yankees are in desperate need of offensive punch, and here comes Derek Jeter.
The Captain made it through a simulated game on Staten Island on Saturday without any issues, clearing his way to return Sunday afternoon, and Jeter's timing couldn't be better.
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The Yankees' makeshift lineup, no juggernaut to begin with thanks to a season-long string of injuries, was dormant again Saturday in the Bronx, continuing a troubling theme of late.
The Yankees managed only two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays and their impressive young starter, Chris Archer (6-3, 2.39 ERA). He threw 97 pitches in his complete game and pitched to only two batters more than the minimum as the Rays won for the 21st time in their last 24 games.
To say the Yankees didn't take advantage of scoring opportunities would be misleading. On this day, there really were no scoring opportunities to speak of.
The Yankees had a runner reach second base only once -- Brett Gardner's ground-rule double to left-center with two outs in the sixth -- and never even touched third base, providing no support for tough-luck loser Ivan Nova (4-4, 3.41).
The loss was their 11th in 17 games -- they are 24-32 since their 30-18 start -- and the lack of offense has been a constant. The Yankees have averaged 3.2 runs in those 17 games and haven't homered in their last nine games, their longest streak since going 10 in a row in 1984.
The Yankees are eight games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay and 31/2 games out of a wild-card spot, which is why Joe Girardi said Saturday: "If we're going to get back in this race, we need to win games and we have to start [Sunday].''
Enter Jeter. On the disabled list for all but one game this season, he comes back to a Yankees team that sure could use a reminder of what normalcy used to represent around here. That's why as long as Jeter says he feels good, Girardi said he plans to play him at shortstop, just like the old days.
Said Girardi, "It's obviously someone we've been waiting for a long time."
Nova did his part, allowing one run and six hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings, but his teammates didn't score a run for him for the second straight start.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth, Nova threw a 95-mph fastball that Kelly Johnson hit off the end of the bat, looping a single to center that fell a few feet in front of a charging Gardner. Ben Zobrist, running on contact with two outs, scored easily.
Nova said he located the pitch exactly where he wanted, low and away.
"You got to keep your team in the game and hope they score a run at some point," he said. "That's the only thing I can do."
Archer, who has allowed two runs (one earned) in his last 32 innings, held the Yankees hitless until Lyle Overbay's one-out single in the fifth and retired the final 10 batters to face him. In 15 innings against the Yankees this season, he has allowed one runner to get past second base.
"We didn't really have any opportunities," Girardi said. "We had one guy in scoring position the whole game . . . I think you've seen us bunt more, you've seen us run more, but when you have three baserunners, you can't do a whole lot."