"It's a long season," Rodriguez said after the Yankees were blanked again and swept by the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. "Two good teams. We definitely took a punch this weekend, but good teams punch back."
The Yankees, who came in with the second-most productive offense in baseball, were limited to just one run during the three-game series. They have not scored a run in 26 consecutive innings.
They posted back-to-back goose eggs on the scoreboard on Saturday and Sunday -- the first time the storied franchise has been shut out in consecutive games since May 1999. (Of course, the Yankees did sweep the Braves in the World Series that year.)
"Look, you have to have some perspective," Rodriguez said. "This is no time for panic for us. We've had a very good season so far. We're in first place for a reason. We like our team. We trust our team. We're gonna take a day off [Monday] and then come back and play good baseball."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman liked this team enough not to make any significant moves at the trade deadline. Acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter or a stud back-end reliever was going to cost a top prospect, or three, and Cashman did not wish to part with any of his best ones.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have gone all-in, adding David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and Cliff Pennington. All the Yankees have is an injured Dustin Ackley, acquired from Seattle. In addition, recent call-up Luis Severino will make his second MLB start on Tuesday in Cleveland.
On July 28, the day Toronto traded for Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays were 50-51, eight games behind the Yankees in the American League East. Since then they've gone 11-1 and shaved 6.5 games off New York's division lead. Their superstars -- Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Price and Tulowitzki -- are performing like superstars, and their confidence as a ballclub continues to soar.
It was the first time Toronto swept New York in a series of at least three games since May 2003.
"I wouldn't say they're very transformed. I feel like they've had a good team all year," said Brett Gardner, who took a ball to the back of the head from a fan after Bautista hit a mammoth home run off Masahiro Tanaka in the fourth inning. "Obviously, they've made some moves that probably made them better. They have a better team now than they had a week or two ago. Like I said, I still like the group of guys in our room, and I feel like we can compete with anybody. We just didn't play well against them."
After scoring 90 runs during a 10-game stretch, the Yankees have scored just four in their past five. The top of the order isn't producing. As a team, they're hitting .208 in August.
Given the surprising good health and production from Mark Teixeira and Rodriguez, along with the injury history of Michael Pineda and Tanaka, now seemed like a good time to bolster the pitching staff and really make a run. Cashman felt otherwise. A short-term gain in 2015, in his opinion, wasn't worth the potential long-term gain of 2016-26. Only time will tell whether that was the right decision.
For now, the Yankees must trust their veteran leadership and experience, and turn things around quickly against the Indians. Their rotation at least has been performing fairly well of late -- Severino, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Tanaka are all coming off solid starts -- so perhaps that provides some reason for optimism.
Still, they need to hit -- the onus is on Jacoby Ellsbury, Gardner, Teixeira and Rodriguez to pick it up. They can't continue to go a combined 0-for-14, as they did on Sunday afternoon.
Not with the surging Blue Jays right on their heels.
"You never assume that it's going to be easy," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You're going to go through good times and bad times, and you've just gotta come back and play well when we go to Cleveland and go from there. It's not our first three-game losing streak of the season [they lost a season-high six from May 17-24] ... so we gotta bounce back."