TORONTO — While it’s true that Ivan Nova couldn’t control his sinker and wasn’t very good overall, focusing on his performance Monday night misses the point.
As the calendar flips to June tomorrow, the Yankees’ offense continues to flounder, its most recent descent a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
A day after managing only one hit against the Rays — a game the Yankees won, 2-1, because the hit was a two-run homer by Starlin Castro — the Yankees had five hits against the Blue Jays. But they had only two entering the eighth inning and were shut out until Brian McCann hit a long two-run homer to centerfield off lefthander Aaron Loup with one out in the ninth.
“We had a rough day at the plate,” said Brett Gardner, who went 0-for-3 to extend his hitless streak to 0-for-20 and was pinch hit for in the ninth by Rob Refsnyder (who struck out).
“I haven’t been swinging the bat well,” Gardner said. “I didn’t have a problem with it at all.”
Gardner has been far from alone in his struggles. During much of the first two months, it seems as if the majority of Joe Girardi’s lineup has been in some kind of slump, the reason the Yankees (24-26) were second-to-last in the American League in runs (190) and on-base percentage (.302) and last in slugging percentage (.377) entering the game.
“When you have two-thirds of your lineup not swinging the bat well, it’s difficult to score runs,” Girardi said.
Those offensive numbers got worse against Marco Estrada (3-2, 2.43). The righthander allowed three hits in eight shutout innings in which he walked two and struck out six.
“Everything was on the corners,” Mark Teixeira said. “If he missed, he missed off the plate. Hitting the corners with four different pitches, give him credit. He took care of us today.”
With closer Roberto Osuna unavailable after working four times in the previous five days, Drew Storen allowed a double to Teixeira after McCann’s homer. But he got Castro to fly to right and struck out Chase Headley to record his third save.
The Yankees didn’t get a runner to third base until the eighth, when Aaron Hicks hit a two-out double to put runners at second and third. Jacoby Ellsbury, who reached base his first two times up, popped to short, keeping the Blue Jays (27-26) ahead 4-0.
Without his best pitch, the sinker, Nova (3-3, 3.98) allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. “I couldn’t get it down the way you’re supposed to,” he said.
But the big issue for the Yankees continues to be lack of consistent production from the middle of the order. With Alex Rodriguez, 1-for-16 since coming off the disabled list, on the bench, Carlos Beltran, McCann and Teixeira hit 3-4-5. They were 1-for-9 entering the ninth, no surprise in that Teixeira and McCann were 2-for-27 coming in and Beltran was 2-for-15.
Teixeira in particular has been brutal, toting a .193/.292/.280 slash line into the game, including .162/.225/.203 in May (with no homers and two RBIs in the month).
“I don’t feel significantly better at the plate,” said Teixeira, who missed the previous four games with a stiff neck. “I haven’t felt very good all season. I just need to get my timing and get some confidence and get rolling. One game’s not going to get you there. It’s going to take a little while. That last at-bat was a good at-bat and hopefully that carries into tomorrow.”
The offensive issues have contributed to the Yankees’ 2-4 record since they made it back to .500 (22-22) a week ago.
“We haven’t played our best baseball,” McCann said. “We had a good two weeks but we have to continue to grind. Our best baseball’s ahead of us.”