The Yankees have shown so many shortcomings in the past two days that, when listing them, it is hard to figure out where to start. That said, here is a vote to begin with the starters. The club can’t begin to think about getting its world to spin right until it does something about its pitching rotation.
CC Sabathia did OK on Saturday in his team’s estimation, but OK has become a relative term. On most days, the Yankees just are not getting enough of a lift from their starting pitcher to make up for their sputtering offense (one run and four hits Saturday against Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered with an 8.59 ERA) and staggering defense (two errors, one of which led to a run).
As Joe Girardi said Friday before the Yankees started the nominal second half with a two-game stumble against the Red Sox: “You have to have consistent starting pitching . . . That’s how you put long streaks together. You win six out of seven, you win 14 out of 17, if your starting pitching is consistent.”
Sure, there is a great chance the Yankees will get a solid start Sunday night from Masahiro Tanaka, who will be pitching on six days’ rest. We all have seen the statistics that show how much better he is on extended rest than on the usual four days. The problem is, giving him an extra day off before every turn would mean handing the ball once a week to someone who isn’t even good enough to be in the rotation now. That idea, as they say, is a non-starter.
It is hard to imagine the Yankees going on a tear the way Michael Pineda is trending. He allowed three homers Friday, after which Girardi essentially shrugged and said there are no alternatives — “he’s just going to have to get it done.”
Also troubling is the way Sabathia is going. Despite being victimized by a series of weak ground-ball hits, he did give up a three-run homer in the sixth that sealed a 5-2 loss. It was the fifth start in a row in which he has failed to get a victory. “I have to stay focused and know that those [errors and soft hits] will turn around,” he said.
Management will have to stay focused on whatever arms might be available in the next two weeks. It is growing more obvious by the day that the Yankees should be sellers rather than buyers or bystanders at or before the trading deadline. It sure wouldn’t hurt if they could pick up a potential starting pitcher, given that the free-agent class this offseason figures to be a slim lot: Clay Buchholz, Jered Weaver, Andrew Cashner and (don’t laugh) Bartolo Colon. Lots of luck.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Saturday that the Pirates have spoken to the Yankees about Nathan Eovaldi, who pitched his way out of the rotation before working his way back in with a relief outing last Sunday. The Pirates, still aiming for this October, need someone to replace Jon Niese, whom they demoted to the bullpen. Names who have surfaced are Chad Kuhl, a 23-year-old righthander scheduled to start Sunday, and Steven Brault, 24, a lefty who has 57 strikeouts in 44 1⁄3 innings at Triple-A.
You will not get an argument from this corner if you point out that the Yankees could use some hitting, too. They still sit and wait for something big from Alex Rodriguez, who batted cleanup Saturday and left with an 0-for-3 and a .218 batting average, and Mark Teixeira, who went 0-for-4 and is hitting .186. The best news the Yankees received Saturday came from an X-ray machine that showed no break in Teixeira’s ankle after he fouled a ball off his left foot.
“It’s been a tough season, so you kind of think the worst when those things happen,” Teixeira said.
Still, problems start with the starter. Despite a sellout crowd of 48,329, Yankee Stadium was quiet from about mid game. That happens when a club gets behind early and stays there. This team is not going to make any noise until it can consistently put the game in the hand of a starting pitcher and know that he won’t fumble it.