DENVER — What many in the game describe as Sean Casey’s “infectious” enthusiasm and positivity was on full display Wednesday afternoon when the former big-leaguer was introduced via Zoom as the Yankees’ new hitting coach.
But Casey, hired over the All-Star break to replace the fired Dillon Lawson, sprinkled in a dose of reality as well.
“I’m not crazy enough to think that I’m going to come in and all of a sudden, all nine guys are going to start hitting because Sean Casey has arrived,” Casey said.
He was right.
Kicking off the season’s second half, the Casey-led Yankees offense very much resembled the previous one, going quietly in a 7-2 loss to the awful Rockies in front of 47,865 at Coors Field.
After an initial jolt by Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a two-run homer on Austin Gomber’s sixth pitch of the night, the Yankees (49-43) did not score the rest of the way, going 6-for-32 against a bad pitching staff in a ballpark that throughout its history has been a hitter’s haven.
Carlos Rodon, making his second start since coming off the injured list, was not good against the Rockies (35-57), allowing four runs, four hits and two walks in five innings. Rodon, who struck out six, threw three wild pitches.
The Rockies scored five runs with two outs on Brenton Doyle’s two-run double in the second, Kris Bryant’s 408-foot two-run homer off Michael King in the seventh and Nolan Jones’ 469-foot solo homer off Albert Abreu in the eighth. Randal Grichuk also hit a 431-foot solo homer off Rodon in the fourth.
Gomber, who had allowed 21 homers in 91 innings and had a 6.53 ERA after Stanton went deep, allowed two runs, six hits and no walks in six innings. Pierce Johnson, Daniel Bard and Justin Lawrence shut down the Yankees from there.
The Yankees fell to 14-18 since Aaron Judge last played on June 3, when he suffered a sprained right big toe. Going into Friday, the Yankees were hitting .218 with a .288 on-base percentage and averaging 3.8 runs per game without Judge.
The Yankees are only two games out of a wild-card spot, but this is the first time since Aug. 23, 1992, that they have been tied for last place this late in a season. “Look, we’ve got to be better, plain and simple,'' Aaron Boone said. "I’m not worried about where we are, it’s all there in front of us. We don’t have to go on some incredible run. We control it. But we all know we have to play better than we’re playing.”
“I don’t really look at that and panic because we’re not so far out of it that the playoffs are out of reach,'' Kyle Higashioka said. "But at the same time, there’s a sense of urgency here that we’ve got to get it going pretty quickly. In the meantime, we’ve just got to grind out some wins, and then I think if we get two or three in a row, we’re going to start rolling.”
Six pitches into the game, Casey and the Yankees were looking good. To the new coach’s delight, Torres (three hits) led off with a single and Stanton teed off on an 0-and-2, 93-mph fastball, sending it 455 feet to left for his 10th homer.
Rodon walked C.J. Cron with one out in the second and consecutive hits by Grichuk and Ezequiel Tovar cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1. After Alan Trejo flied to right, a wild pitch advanced the runners and both came in on Doyle’s two-run double to left.
“Behind in the count,'' Rodon said. "I was in a lot of hitter’s counts in that second inning and they made me pay for that.”
“The one inning obviously hurt him where he made some mistakes,'' Boone said. "I thought he finished well, I thought there were flashes of it there, but probably not quite the command he wanted.”
In the fourth, Grichuk, who routinely hit Yankees pitching while a Blue Jay from 2018-21, crushed a first-pitch, 93-mph fastball to left to give the Rockies a 4-2 lead. That gave Grichuk 18 homers against the Yankees since 2018, tied for the most in that stretch with Rafael Devers, according to baseball researcher Katie Sharp.
Said Rodon, who returned from forearm and back issues a week earlier: “I definitely wasn’t good. I don’t know if it’s rust. It’s just baseball. It wasn’t good, let’s put it that way. No other way to put it.”
The Yankees' offense wasn't all that good, either. So it will take a little longer for what Casey has to say to sink in.
“We’ve got to mount more,'' Boone said. "I thought we had some guys put together some good at-bats, obviously Gleyber at the top with a few hits, Big G with the big swing, I thought [Josh] Donaldson had good at-bats all night, it was good to see DJ [LeMahieu) get a couple hits and [Anthony] Volpe stung a couple balls. But overall we have to generate more. It’s as simple as that. Not the way we wanted to start off this series.”