Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just Burn The Bats

The Yankees' equipment manager had better order a new batch of bats.

Clearly, the only thing this batch is good for is kindling. Burn baby, burn.

The Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 as the offense managed only four hits and repeatedly let Braves rookie starter Tommy Hanson off the hook in a 4-0 loss in Atlanta Tuesday.

The Yankees are now five games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and at 38-32 are but one game better than they were at the same point last year, when they were scavenging through scrap heaps to find starting pitchers.

But in this latest slide, it's the offense that's been the culprit.

Since scoring 15 runs against the Mets on June 14, the Yankees' offense has been lifeless and ineffective as the team has gone 2-5 against the weakest teams in the NL East.

Since that Mets game, the Yankees have scored 18 runs -- an average of a paltry 2.57 a game -- and have gone 49-for-224 (.219), including going 12-for-52 (.226) with runners in scoring position.

In short, the offense has been pathetic. The team might as well use these bats to hold a bonfire. They are not good for anything else.

Tuesday's game was positively maddening.

For a change, the Yankees actually worked deep counts and ran up Hanson's pitch count.

Hanson left after only 5-1/3 innings, allowing four hits and five walks. He struck out four the threw 57 of 99 pitches for strikes.

And despite throwing only in the 80s, Hanson constantly worked his way out of trouble.

In the second, the Yankees loaded the bases when Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch with one out and Melky Cabrera and Brett Garnder walked with two outs. Chien-Ming Wang, however, swung at the first pitch he saw from Hanson and topped to the mound.

Now I know Wang is only a pitcher and the likelihood of him doing anything productive was slim, but how about taking a pitch or two from a guy who just walked to guys in a row? Who knows, maybe he throws a wild pitch? But this the indicative of the hitting approach of this team and we have to wonder why hitting coach Kevin Long isn't coming under more fire -- especially from Hank and Hal Hess ... I mean Steinbrenner.

Derek Jeter led off the third with a double and Mark Teixeira walked with one out, but of course the Yankees did nothing with the opportunity. Jeter and Teixeira stole as Alex Rodriguez struck out and then Cano lofted a fly to left to end the inning.

The Yankees loaded the bases again in the fourth, but failed yet again. With one out Cabrera doubled and Gardner reached on a fielder's choice when he grounded to short and Cabrera was safe as Braves third baseman Chipper Jones dropped the throw from shortstop Yunel Escobar.

Then Joe Girardi did something puzzling, yet again. He had Wang sacrifice Gardner to second as Melky stayed put. If Girardi was willing to give up and out there, why not try a double steal or a suicide squeeze? Moving Gardner to second via the bunt gained very little and was an absolute waste of an out.

Jeter followed with a walk, but Nick Swisher grounded to short. That meant in the second, third and fourth innings, the Yankees managed to leave eight men on base. For the game, the Yankees had 8 out of 30 at-bats with a runner in scoring position. That's 26.7 percent of the time, more than one out of every four at-bats. You'd think they'd be able to get at least one in just by accident.

The offense mounted yet another threat in the sixth when Gardner singled with one out and stole second. Hideki Matsui, pinch hitting for Wang, walked to knock Hanson out of the game, but it really didn't matter. Jeter grounded into yet another doubleplay.

From there, the Yankees had only one more baserunner the rest of the game, when Johnny Damon pinch hit and walked in the ninth.

It's a shame the offense was so pathetic because Wang actually pitched pretty well.

He went five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk. He struck out four and threw 42 of 62 pitches for strikes. He would have gone much deeper into the game had the offense done anything ... or he was pitching in an American League park.

The only trouble Wang got into came in the third with two outs when he allowed an RBI double to Brian McCann and a two-run single to Yankee killer Garret Anderson.

Wang actually looked like the guy who won 19-games two years in a row, throwing a hard, sinking fastball at 94 mph and spotting a very effective slider.

But the big issue for the Yankees right now is their bats.

They have to do something to get them going, and with management reluctant to do anything to shake up the team, the players have to take upon themselves to something.

Get the lighter fluid boys. Time to get this bonfire cranking.

Runners In Scoring Position
Tuesday
0-for-8 (.000)
Season
167-for-637 (.262)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
101-for-369 (.274)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Wednesday at Atlanta, 7 p.m., YES
Joba Chamberlain (2-3, 3.89 ERA) vs. Kenshin Kawakami (4-6, 4.42)

Joba, be more aggressive with the fastball and stopping walking in runs. Offense -- WAKE UP!

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