In the past, it might not have mattered that CC Sabathia had a shaky outing. In the past, a 4-0 Red Sox lead in the second inning might not have turned into something insurmountable. In the past, the Yankees might have found a way -- might have come up with a long ball here, a couple of timely hits there -- to make a game out of their season opener.
That's because in the past, before injuries swept through the Yankees, they had the deepest and most talented lineup in baseball. No more. Instead of opening the season with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in the top five spots, as they did last year, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 8-2, Monday with Brett Gardner, Eduardo Nuñez, Cano, Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells at the top of the order.
Millions of dollars in salary and several megawatts of star power separate these two groups. The ability to string timely hits together also seemed to be lacking in the second group, which could be seen most plainly in the seventh inning.
Trailing 5-2, the Yankees looked as if they might get something going when Francisco Cervelli and Gardner opened the inning by drawing walks off Andrew Miller. The lefthanded reliever, however, struck out Nuñez and Cano. Righthander Andrew Bailey then came in and ended the inning by striking out Youkilis with a 95-mph fastball.
"We just didn't have timely hitting," said Youkilis, who had a leadoff double in the fourth inning and finished his first game as a Yankee 1-for-4. "One big hit here or there and we were back in it. Timely hitting is the key, and we just didn't have it."
The Yankees didn't have a whole lot of hitting, period. Especially from the top of the lineup. Gardner, Nuñez, Cano, Youkilis and Wells totaled three hits in 19 at-bats. Nuñez, starting for the injured Jeter, struck out three times. Wells, acquired from the Angels near the end of spring training, was 0-for-3, though he did draw a walk.
"It all comes down to situational hitting," Wells said. "When we get in a situation with an easy RBI opportunity, we have to come through. Obviously, we're not going to be able to rely on the long ball as much right now. We still have some guys in this lineup who can swing the bats."
Though this is not the lineup that the Yankees are going to have for most of the season, it is the lineup they have right now. And Joe Girardi is expecting them to produce.
"We have some new faces in the lineup,'' he said. "They're getting an opportunity to step up and they're going to have to do that. That's the bottom line. We brought some guys in later to camp. They're going to get a lot of opportunities and we need them to perform."