CHICAGO — When Aaron Boone looks at his rotation of late, does he see a group "in crisis"?
Even after Friday night’s 10-2 loss to the White Sox that featured yet another Yankees starter failing to contribute length, let alone quality, Boone said he wouldn’t use that term.
“Obviously, it’s been a tough stretch for us here these last 10 days or whatever it’s been, but I think it’s been a little bit of everything,” said Boone, whose team entered Saturday night having lost eight of its last 11 games after a 32-10 stretch. “We just haven’t played well enough to win consistently. Some nights it’s been pitching, some nights we haven’t been able to mount enough offensively. There’s been a couple games where we haven’t played clean defensively.”
Still, it’s hard not to focus on the rotation.
On Friday night, CC Sabathia was the latest member of the group to falter, allowing six runs (five earned) and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Sabathia is 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA in his last four starts and 3-4 with a 4.42 ERA overall. It is not unfair to wonder just how much the 38-year-old, who has pitched on a right knee that has needed continued in-season maintenance for years, has left.
Still, he is far from the only question mark on the staff.
Masahiro Tanaka, who will start Monday, has the best ERA (3.58) but is in a tough three-game stretch (1-2, 5.79). James Paxton, Sunday’s starter, has been up and down (3-3, 4.09), has a resume pockmarked with injuries and already has been on the injured list once this season. After showing signs of getting in a groove of late, J.A. Happ took a step back Thursday night. He is 6-3 but has a 4.66 ERA.
The club’s top pitcher this season, Domingo German, started the season 9-1 but slipped in his last three starts (0-1, 8.59) and recently was put on the IL with a left hip flexor strain.
“It’s tough, especially with us not pitching well right now,” Sabathia said late Friday night. “You want to go out and help the team and I just wasn’t able to do that.”
But Sabathia said he isn’t concerned about the Yankees. “No, it’s just a long season,” he said. “We’ve had a bad 10 days. But this team is very capable of doing what it did before that and getting back to where we were. I think we’ll be fine.”
Even with the Yankees' uneven play, they entered Saturday night's game against the White Sox in a virtual tie with the Rays atop the AL East.
Boone, though acknowledging the ragged play of late, is of a mindset similar to Sabathia's. And, obvious starting pitching issues aside, those haven’t been the only issues, he stressed.
“We just have to play better overall and do it as a group,” Boone said. “And when you’re doing those kinds of things, you start to notch some wins, especially with the people we have in there [the clubhouse] capable of it. We have to play better in every facet of the game to start getting back in the win column.
He later added: “It’s inevitable you’re going to hit a patch. We have to play better, there’s no question about it, but we can’t be fazed by the ups and downs that are inevitably going to come with the season, and we won’t be. Definitely in a little bit of a rough patch and we need to play better in every facet right now.”