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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Problem is -- duh! -- the offense

Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury reacts after he strikes out

Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury reacts after he strikes out swinging to end the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kudos to the uniform-wearing members of the Yankees for finally admitting who's to blame for the mess they're in. And no, we're not talking about Joe Girardi, the pitching staff or the bat boys.

Too bad it took until Aug. 21 to look in the mirror.

Until Thursday, we were beginning to wonder if there were any reflective surfaces in the home clubhouse. But after salvaging a 3-0 victory from an otherwise lost series to the woeful Astros, thanks largely to Brandon McCarthy's quickie four-hit shutout, a few Yankees revealed they had staged what amounted to an intervention that same morning.

The message? Time to man up.

"Enough's enough," Chase Headley said. "Let's go. We're a lot better offensively than we've shown."

No kidding. Any 8-year-old with an iPad could tell you these Yankees haven't performed up to expectations at the plate. Not even close. So after losing two straight to the Astros, and averaging a whopping 2.2 runs in their previous nine games, it seems the Yankees were sufficiently embarrassed to ultimately call each other out.

In a positive, team-building, Kumbaya-chanting sort of gathering.

"Just to clear the air," Brett Gardner said.

Before we cue the "Rocky" theme, however, let's put all this rah-rah stuff in its proper context. Despite the air-clearing, the Yankees charged from the dugout tunnel and still scored only three runs against the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, who also pitched a complete game.

That's precisely 0.8 more runs than the previous nine-game average we just told you about. The onslaught, as it were, took place in the second inning, with a two-run double by Headley and Ichiro Suzuki's sacrifice fly. Before then, the Yankees batted .247 with runners in scoring position -- tied for 17th in the majors -- and were getting creative in their methods of stranding men on base.

"It's been a disaster," GM Brian Cashman told Newsday. "It's a huge frustration. It's even more frustrating because the bigger problem should have been our pitching with all the drastic injuries we had there -- and we've been able to solve that.

"Offensively, we have made changes. But it seems like we're scuffling now worse than ever. You've just got to keep getting that hard hat and lunch pail and go to the office every freakin' day and try to get through it."

Cashman, who's in the final year of his contract, is taking heat with the Yankees on the verge of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in two decades. But let's be honest. This lineup -- momentarily without the hurting Carlos Beltran -- is essentially the same one he was praised for building back in February.

They didn't stop there, either. Cashman scrambled for some spare parts before the July 31 non-waiver deadline in adding Headley, Martin Prado and Stephen Drew to hopefully spur a sluggish offense. With power bats such a scarce commodity, Cashman really couldn't shake free anyone else. Sure the Red Sox acquired Yoenis Cespedes, but they traded Jon Lester to get him.

From here to the finish, the Yankees will have to rely on the current roster to make up the wild-card deficit (with a few September call-ups) and only half of them have been doing their jobs adequately -- the pitching half. Thursday was another prime example of that as the McCarthy trade once again looked like the steal of the century and the lineup was unimpressive.

"We've had injuries on the pitching side that we've been able to plug," Cashman said. "That should have sunk us. The offense shouldn't be sinking us. If you replay this type of a season 100 times over, I would not be able to run into some of the things we ran into to salvage the pitching. But the offense is very perplexing."

No one can adequately explain why. Is it age? Nagging injuries? Derek Jeter being untouchable in the No. 2 spot? All of those things are probably contributing factors. There's also not much the Yankees can do about it at the end of August.

Maybe those pangs of accountability that led to Thursday's meeting will help. Whether that's enough to revive the Yankees' fading chances is debatable.

"Obviously this clock is running out," Cashman said, "and we're just barely hanging in right now."

At least we know the players have identified the problem.

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