Joe Girardi shows the frustration of a 20-game stretch that saw the Yankees' AL East lead dwindle to 3 games. (Image: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE)

Sluggish Yanks swept by ChiSox; AL East lead cut to three games

The New York Yankees concluded a stretch of twenty games in twenty days in the worst conceived way; dropping three straight to the Chicago White Sox, a potential playoff opponent, while losing their grip on a once commanding division lead.

The Yankees were swept by the Chicago White Sox, scoring just ten runs in the three games, looking every bit their age as the series concluded. Only Derek Jeter looks ready to roll everyday and that earns him nothing more than speculation from one of the media’s biggest loudmouths.

Jeter shrugged off ESPN yapper Skip Bayless’ comments and homered for the third-straight game for the first time in his magnificent career, but it was the only run the Yankees could muster off White Sox starter and Cy Young candidate Chris Sale. He tossed 7 2/3 innings allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out a whopping 13 hitters. Sale struck out every Yankee starter except, you guessed it, Jeter.

Phil Hughes was more than solid in his efforts to stop the Yankees’ slide, but came up short. He allowed two runs, including a homer to Alex Rios in the sixth; right after Jeter had tied the score in the previous half-inning. Hughes gave up five hits in total, walked two and struck out five.

The Yankees went 11-9 during the 20 games and faced three potential playoff teams and their arch-rival Boston Red Sox along the way. While not a stellar performance in all, the Tampa Bay Rays are heating up at the right time, going 14-5 during the same period erasing 3.5 games off the Bombers lead in the AL East.

Despite the diminished lead, the Yankees aren’t in panic mode. Manager Joe Girardi explains the Yankees’ perspective like this.

“That’s baseball,” Girardi said. “It’s what you go through. You know that the season’s not over after 120 games, it’s not over after 140. You have to play 162. We’re going to play the teams that we need to win against, that’s the bottom line. We still have the lead.”

Girardi is right, but the road does not get easier after the next three games against a slumping Cleveland Indians club. They’ll face the Rays six times and the third-place Baltimore Orioles seven times, including a ten-game stretch against both teams, before the regular season concludes. They also play postseason contender Oakland A’s three times and the always tough Toronto Blue Jays ten times in their remaining 38 games.

Nick Swisher may have put it best, “That off day for us couldn’t come at a better time.”

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