Are the Yanks 86'ed after 81?

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
1:30
AM ET


BALTIMORE -- At the halfway point to the season, the New York Yankees are on pace to go 84-78. That isn't too bad, considering the lineup they put out there every night.

But after being swept by the Baltimore Orioles to make it five losses in a row, it feels like it is only going to get worse, not better.

A show of hands, please: Who out there thinks that the next 81 are going to be better than the first 81?

All and all, after the offseason of defections and the spring training of injuries, the Yankees (42-39) might have overacheived in the first half. As it is now, they are desperately waiting for a 39-year-old shortstop with a bum ankle; a controversial, soon-to-be 38-year-old third baseman; an all-or-nothing outfielder, who presently can't grip a bat; and a few other injured supporting actors to save their season.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
AP Photo/Gail BurtonYes, Hiroki Kuroda gave up three solo home runs. But he kept the offensively challenged Yankees in the game.
If the Yankees have some combination of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez and Michael Pineda back, then maybe they can make a run.

"It is not real clear because you don't exactly know when guys are coming back, and it is not real clear when they do come back how they are going to feel," manager Joe Girardi said.

But with this current group, they have no chance. You can't have a lineup with only two hitters -- Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner.

In the second inning during Sunday's 4-2 loss, the Yankees had a chance to do some damage to a suddenly wild Chris Tillman. After Tillman walked in a run with back-to-back free passes to No. 9 batter David Adams and Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees' No. 2 hitter, came up.

Ichiro is not the same player who used to collect 200-hit seasons yearly. He is still a singles hitter, but just knocks a lot less of them.

In the second, he popped out on the infield to end the inning.

In the seventh, he would get a second chance. With two men on and two out, Ichiro had a chance to tie it but again just popped out meekly.

For all his future Hall of Fame greatness, Ichiro is not a guy you want up in an important moment these days.

Girardi has no better options, so he has to pencil in what he has available while trying to see if optimism can win game.

"We are in striking distance," Girardi said prior to the loss that put them 6½ games out of first and sliding into fourth place. "We are in the middle of our division right now. You would like to be better, but that is not the case. It should be a very interesting second half. We are not in too bad of a position."

It got a little worse after another game in which the offense scored two runs. You can't win that way. The Yankees found a way to fool reality for a while in the first half.

"I've seen them do it and I think they can do it again," Girardi said of his current group.

But at the end of Sunday's loss, Girardi had guys such as Chris Stewart and Adams trying to win in the ninth for him. On his bench, he could only turn to Alberto Gonzalez or Austin Romine.

"You know what you have and you have to deal with it," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line."

The Yankees have in the first half. Overall, they have actually done a good job in the first 81. That is the scary part for the second 81.
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146