The New York Yankees entered last night’s tilt against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a season-best five games above .500 and riding a season-high five-game win streak. Both came crashing down on the Yankees, bringing to light some harsh realities surrounding the club.
First, the performance of Phil Hughes can not be ignored. Despite wishful feelings on Hughes’ supposed turnaround, he continues to prove that he is not a big time starter and may never get there. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about his “fantastic” 2010 season. He won 18 games that season (17 as a starter), but his 4.19 ERA was not exactly dominant. If the Yankees did not average 6.3 runs per game in his twenty-nine starts (7.8 runs per game in his 17 wins as a starter), he may have had a record closer to .500.
There is little reason why the Yankees’ offense had to score eight runs last night just to stay in the game. With a 3-0 lead, Jered Weaver on the other side or not, Hughes needs to shutdown the opposition. The fact that Weaver left with an injury, should have made things even easier. Instead, Hughes looked like a lost man out there in the first inning where everything he threw was drilled. The Yanks tied the score right after he let it go and he gave it back one inning later. This is all too familiar for Hughes.
Not all the issues from last night’s loss pointed at Hughes. There are several other instances to be wary of. While the Yankees have left their overall offensive struggles behind, they are still not performing well with runners in scoring position. During the five-game win streak they hit .224 in those instances. They are 17 for their last 121 (.140) with RISP. This is pathetic.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see Brett Gardner on the bases getting into the head of the opposing pitcher? Isn’t it apparent that the Yankees need Gardner’s style of play to jump-start the engine at times? The contributions from the lineup have yet to involve the entire crew. It is generally one or two players carrying the load for the offense on a particular day, and it is typically via the long ball instead of grinding out runs.
The Yankees have lived by the home run for much of the last few seasons, but were still able to generate runs with men in scoring position especially with Gardner in the lineup. It also seemed that the Yankees were able to put away teams more often than they have this season. They have only won seven games all season with a run differential of 5 runs or more. They’ve scored in double digits only three times. The Yanks have not fared well in one-run games winning four out of nine. Getting and maintaining large leads is particularly important for this squad when the rotation’s ERA is 4.74 for the season.
The bullpen has been mostly effective, but will the injuries to David Robertson and Mariano Rivera finally take a toll? Cory Wade is having a very good season, but don’t we want Robertson pitching the ninth in a tie game? Is Hughes better suited for a relief role? His finest stretch of his career actually came during relief appearances in 2009. Hughes is 34-26 with a 4.99 ERA as a starter and 6-2 with a 1.44 ERA in relief. The Yanks may need to bite the bullet soon when it comes to Hughes’ role.
Again, we can’t lay all the blame on Hughes for last night, but his performance is the perfect example of what is wrong with this team. Instead of finding ways to win, which has become a Yankee standard over the last two-three decades, this team seems to find a way to lose as Hughes did last night.
The Yankees should consider themselves lucky to be only 2.5 games back in the AL East. If these trends continue they will find themselves watching the playoffs from their easy chairs. If the regular season ended after last night’s games they’d be heading to Yankee Stadium to clean out their lockers for the offseason, not to prepare for the playoffs.