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First Pitch: Mac admits not getting it done

5/13/2014

NEW YORK -- Brian McCann looked like a dejected man, and who could blame him after this kind of start to a season and this kind of finish to a game.

With two men on in the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees trailing by two, McCann scorched a grounder.

Off the bat, he thought he had a hit. Instead it was a game-ending double play started by Lucas Duda, with David Wright handling the chore at second base because of a shift.

After McCann crossed first base, he crouched in disappointment. A little bit later, by his locker, McCann didn't look much better, his struggles clearly wearing on him.

"It comes and goes," McCann said of his hitting. "The results aren't there. This is a results-oriented business and I'm not getting it done."

With shifts taking hit after hit away from McCann, he has resorted to bunting to try to raise a batting average that currently stands at .213, to go along with just four home runs and 12 RBIs.

McCann has largely escaped the heat, but he has failed to hit yet as the calendar approaches mid-May. While the Yankees like how McCann handles a pitching staff and frames strikes, they gave him an $85 million contract mostly because of his bat.

They expect more -- and manager Joe Girardi says it is coming.

"I don't think it is the shift that's killing him, I don't think he has quite hit the ball like he is capable of for the most part," Girardi said. "He has had some pretty good weeks during the course of the season where he has gotten pretty hot. He hit some balls out of the ballpark. He goes the other way as much as any left-handed hitter that they shift on."

Still, moving to the shift-happy AL East has hurt McCann. In 2013, the Red Sox shifted 478 times -- which, according to the Wall Street Journal, was more than the whole NL East combined last year. There is evidence that shifts are hurting McCann, from Dan Barbarisi's story:

"Across baseball, hitters pull about 27 percent of their hits. McCann, by contrast, has pulled 39 percent of his hits to right field in his decade-long career. When he was younger, those balls fell in for hits. In the age of shifting, with extra infielders crowding the area between first and second base, it's not quite so easy."

McCann said he has not noticed seeing more shifts this year compared to when he was in the National League with the Braves.

On Monday, in the second inning, McCann beat the shift by dropping a line drive over the infield "rover" in short right field. In the third, he tried to bunt for a hit but was easily thrown out. In the sixth, with the game tied, he tried to hit one over the right-field wall but came up just short. In the ninth, he ended the game with that hard-hit double play.

The shift poses a dilemma for McCann. If he bunts or tries to go the other way too much, it will limit his power. If he doesn't, a lot of hits could become outs.

McCann is very cognizant of the problem. When cornered late Monday about it, he didn't really know what to say about how he can beat the defense. He is frustrated -- and you can sense the fans are not that far behind.

On deck: On Tuesday, it's Vidal Nuno (1-0, 5.47) versus righty Zack Wheeler (1-3, 4.35).