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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Yankees' real problem is not enough hitting

Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees strikes

Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees strikes out in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Quietness spoke loudly in the Yankees' clubhouse and in the hallway outside yesterday. There was concern, which no one had to or wanted to shout about. It was all, of course, about CC Sabathia and what might hinge on his bad right knee. The real problem for the Yankees was that Sabathia was not their real problem.

It is their offense that ought to be worrying them the most. They simply did not hit enough against a last-place team this weekend, losing three of four, and they have not been all that great at the plate in weeks. It is at bat that they are most quiet.

Trevor Bauer held them to one hit through the first five innings Sunday and left with a 3-1 lead in the seventh after his 95-mph fastball struck out Alex Rodriguez, who was held out of the starting lineup for a second consecutive day in hopes that a little rest could help him.

By that logic, there ought to be a lot more Yankees taking seats. Fact is, since a four-game splurge in which they scored 40 runs against the White Sox and Red Sox July 31-August 4, the Yankees have averaged only 3.3 runs. Not coincidentally, they are 8-10 in those games, concluding with the 4-3 loss Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Brian McCann, who started the game as the designated hitter but finished as the catcher and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, did not have a ready explanation. Very quietly, he said, "I mean, you tip your hat."

There was not a lot of rumination late Sunday afternoon about anything but Sabathia, whose surgically repaired right knee has been a problem all year and forced him out of the game in the third inning. He probably will wind up on the disabled list, which will be a problem for a team that is trying not to overwork its other starters. But acknowledging that, and with all due respect to Sabathia and his fine career, he is a 4-9 pitcher with a 5.27 earned run average now. If your season depends on him, you don't have much of a season.

These Yankees were built to hit and they are not doing enough of it. They sure looked thin yesterday.

Part of the problem is they do not know when Mark Teixeira's leg, injured by a foul tip last week, will allow him to start again. They do not expect him Monday night. Plus, they do not know what to make of Rodriguez, one of the most dynamic, pleasant surprises any team has had this year.

"I've seen him go out of the zone more. He comes out of his legs more as a hitter and he gets forward," Joe Girardi said. "Could that be fatigue? Could it be he's just not seeing the ball well? That could be it, too."

General manager Brian Cashman said he has seen Rodriguez "chase pitches," and has seen the same from Didi Gregorius, who is 3-for-23 on this homestand. "When they're in a slump, I don't think they're seeing the ball as well out of the [pitcher's] hand," Cashman said.

By the end of the game Sunday, the only available hitter was Brendan Ryan, who has one hit in his past 15 at-bats. To lead off the ninth, Girardi sent Chris Young to bat against righthanded closer Cody Allen, despite the fact Young was batting .182 with 40 strikeouts against righties. He struck out.

That move was necessary because Girardi had needed Rodriguez to bat for catcher John Ryan Murphy, switching McCann from designated hitter to catcher, meaning the pitcher's spot would come up in the order. That seldom happens in an American League game, except when a team is thin and struggling.

Maybe this is all just an aberration against an opponent on a lucky streak against the Yankees. Or maybe it is something about which to be really concerned.

Gregorius chose the former. "This series has already happened, so there's nothing we can do now. All you can do is move forward," he said, quietly.

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