David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Maybe it’s time to adjust our perspective. After watching the Yankees lose again Wednesday night, this time to an A’s team that played half the game by National League rules, we’re temporarily suspending our belief in the automatic turnaround.
For all the talk of early slumps, and bad bounces, and things evening out before too long, what we’ve witnessed lately in the Bronx hasn’t been very encouraging. And after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss, which again featured the recurring RISP nightmare, along with a few new frustrating wrinkles, Joe Girardi isn’t too thrilled either with his $200-million roster.
“I’m surprised,” an exasperated Girardi said. “There’s too much experience in that room.”
None of it, however, was on display Wednesday. As much as the A’s tried to help by subbing out their DH in the fourth inning — that left their starting pitcher Kendall Graveman to bat cleanup — the Yankees did more than enough to sabotage themselves in suffering their sixth loss in seven games.
Aside from their aversion to crossing the plate, and the usual costly mistake or two from perplexing fireballer Nathan Eovaldi, the Yankees mucked things up in the seventh inning when Didi Gregorius’ base-running brain-lock wiped out a final comeback attempt.
The lack of timely hitting is understandable. That’s baseball. It comes and goes. At some point, we expect the Yankees will score more than three runs on a semi-regular basis. But the mental gaffes, and the type of reckless sprinting around that Gregorius did in causing the rally-killing double play just can’t happen.
With the Yankees down 3-1 and runners at second and third, Gregorius essentially ran himself into an inexcusable situation on Aaron Hicks’ grounder to Chris Coghlan. Rather than play it safe, and simply letting the run score, Gregorius was tagged dashing to third before Coghlan threw to first for the third out.
“It was a bad read,” Gregorius said. “Stupid baserunning.”
Girardi agreed emphatically during his postgame news conference. And not only did he throw Gregorius under the bus repeatedly, the manager backed over him a few times as well. Girardi usually doesn’t get too worked up in front of the media, but Wednesday night was an exception. We certainly can’t blame him for his patience wearing thin.
“To me, it’s running things through your head,” Girardi said. “Whether it’s offense or defense, you’ve got to know what you’ve got to do. That’s a blunder that we have to take care of.”
Add that to the list. With Brett Gardner a late scratch because of a stiff neck, Aaron Hicks got the start in leftfield and an awful throw by the supposed defensive specialist resulted in a second run for the A’s during the three-run third inning.
Oakland got lucky when third-base coach Ron Washington should have sent Coghlan to his doom on Josh Reddick’s bloop single to left. Hicks has a cannon arm, and it was a short throw. But he delivered a two-hopper to the plate that also was wide, preventing Brian McCann from slapping on a tag.
Hicks redeemed himself later that inning by cutting down Danny Valencia with a bullet throw from 100 feet farther away. But for these Yankees, with runs at a premium, that was too little, too late. Their margin for error is so tiny these days that every misstep is magnified, and it doesn’t matter who the opponent is.
The two times Wednesday they did put together a pair of rallies, both blew up in their faces. Aside from the Gregorius fiasco, Alex Rodriguez struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the first inning. That combination of misfiring in big spots — along with a bad baseball IQ — is making for an unsightly mess in the Bronx.
“The key for us is to stay positive,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to focus on doing the little things. We have to play good fundamental baseball. That concerns me more as a team.”
The Yankees, now 5-8, are alone at the bottom of the AL East, and certainly deserve to be there. Sure it’s early, and the Yankees are better than they’ve shown to this point. But for all their assurances about coming out of his April funk, and the temporary nature of this RISP drought, the Yankees are testing our faith.
We’ll believe it when we see it.