Reeling Yankees need their 'A' team

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Brennan Boesch of the Yankees strikes out in

Brennan Boesch of the Yankees strikes out in the fourth inning in Game 4 of the Subway Series against the Mets at Yankee Stadium. (May 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.

From Opening Day, we wondered how long the Yankees could chug along pretending that anyone could be an All-Star once they slipped on the pinstripes.

Now we know. Nearly two months.

It was a good run, and now it's over after the Mets exposed their Bronx buddies this week in every way imaginable, capped by Thursday night's 3-1 win at the Stadium. They outpitched the Yankees, outhit them and, as an added bonus, even beat Mariano Rivera before he could register an out in Tuesday night's dramatic finish.

Not bad for a Mets team that was 11 games below .500 when this home-and-home Subway Series began Monday. Back then, Terry Collins would have signed up for a split in a heartbeat. Even Jeff Wilpon, after winning the Citi Field opener, pulled a Joe Biden and mistakenly conceded the rest of the season in a pregame fete for Rivera.

It was an embarrassing slip. But by Thursday night, with a sweep complete, it was the Mets who enjoyed the last laugh.

Dillon Gee, pitching to stay in the rotation, looked like Clayton Kershaw in striking out 12. The Yankees whiffed 14 times, and during this five-game losing streak, they have struck out 50 times and drawn four walks.

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As much as Joe Girardi would like to think Friday night's return of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis can reverse that downward spiral, there are no guarantees.

But it's even less convincing that the Yankees we've watched this past week will turn things around on their own. Sure, these players work in the Bronx and have the interlocking NY on their caps, but this is hardly the group Hal Steinbrenner is paying $225 million this season.

Steinbrenner himself felt this was a nice story -- with all of its unheralded heroes -- and it fueled his belief that he might even be able to field a first-place team in 2014 with a slashed payroll. That still could happen, but not this year, as the Yankees made it to the end of May on fumes.

"I don't know if they were playing over their heads,'' Girardi said. "I think they were playing well. And I think whenever you're playing well and you go through a bad streak, I think you're always a little bit surprised because you don't know what exactly triggered it."

The law of averages is simply catching up to players such as Vernon Wells, who is in a 5-for-35 slump after going hitless last night from the No. 3 spot.

Lyle Overbay has been a pleasant surprise, but he's no Teixeira. Youkilis should be an upgrade at third from rookie David Adams, who has made a great first impression.

If only it were that easy. The Yankees defied the odds in mixing together a winning formula so quickly from random ingredients. But can they make wholesale changes to their lineup on the fly and again expect favorable results? That remains to be seen.

Teixeira (wrist) and Youkilis (back) have to be considered X factors after missing so much time with temperamental injuries, but the Yankees are thinking of their resumes, not the reality. When asked if Teixeira and Youkilis will be back in time for this weekend's key series against the Red Sox, Brian Cashman replied, "They better be."

The GM sounds as if he's out of patience, and who can blame him? Getting swept is bad enough. But four straight to the Mets, including two at home? That stings.

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"You know there's a competitive edge to all those guys in that room,'' Girardi said, "and it's hard when you lose to your crosstown rivals."

It doesn't get much easier this weekend as the Red Sox, a much better team, roll into the Bronx. If the Yankees are capable of pulling out of this funk, now would be a good time.

"What's done is done," Brett Gardner said. "I still feel like we're in a good place."

Just not as good as it used to be.

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