Yankees' promises sounding empty

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
12:28
PM ET
Brett GardnerPatrick McDermott/Getty ImagesThe Orioles had no problem hitting the ball over the wall this week. But the Bombers ...
NEW YORK -- Well, at least the Yankees won't have to face Chris Archer this weekend.

If there is any positive to the upcoming three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays -- a series that became all the more vital after the Yankees dropped both games in their rain-abbreviated series in Baltimore -- it is that they escape the indignity of being stifled once again by a pitcher they have never managed to beat.

Instead, they get a chance to restart their stalled offense -- a season-long stall, by the way -- against Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Jeremy Hellickson. And they get to do it at a ballpark that has been a house of horrors for the Yankees for as long as anyone on this roster can remember.

That is why all the brave talk coming out of the Yankees' clubhouse following Wednesday night's crushing 5-3 loss to the Orioles, while necessary and proper, also sounded extremely hollow.

Joe Girardi, whose questionable pitching moves Wednesday night went a long way toward sealing his team's fate, started the ball rolling.

[+] EnlargeTropicana Field
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWill the Yankees find their pop at The Trop?
"We've got to go and play really well," he said. "We've got to go to Tampa and play well and put this behind us. We've got to start winning series again. We have not won the last two series and we've put ourselves in a little bit of a hole."

The theme was picked up by Derek Jeter.

"We have tomorrow off, and we have to play well in Tampa, that’s the bottom line," he said. "We had opportunities to win a few games here and we didn’t do it. Now we have to find ways to win in Tampa. But we play this game every day for a reason. We have tomorrow off, and then we’ll go right back at it."

The always-feisty Francisco Cervelli, whose two-run homer provided the only real offensive spark Wednesday night, threw out some fighting words.

"Hell, yeah, we gonna fight," he said. "We gonna fight. We gonna win some games. This is not over yet."

But the math says the fat lady is warming up backstage. So do the team's past performances at The Trop, and against the three pitchers the Yankees will be facing even without having to see Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees. Most of all, it is the puniness of the Yankees' offense that makes a rally this weekend highly unlikely; Wednesday night was the 57th game out of 119 in which the Yankees were unable to score more than three runs.

And for that, no one seems to have an answer. Asked for the 119th time this season why the Yankees' bats have never gotten hot this season, Girardi fixed his questioner with a blank stare and said simply, "I don't know."

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Across town, where the owners were squabbling over the successor to Bud Selig, Hal Steinbrenner sounded less like his volatile dad and more like any other perplexed fan when he said, "We’ve put a lot of money into the offense, as well, and they have been, as a whole, inconsistent. It’s been a problem. And that has to change.”

But he offered no idea of how that change would come about.

"We still play everybody," Jeter said of the Yanks' remaining schedule. "You know me, I’ll tell you, if you win your games, you don’t have to worry about anything. We still play the people that are in front of us. We have control over what happens. We’re not making it easy on ourselves, but we still control it."

All technically correct. But the truth is, there comes a time when promises become empty, and vows to "turn it around this weekend" sound more pathetic than brave.

Even without the terror of Archer, the Yankees are 1-4 against Cobb, who has a 2.10 ERA against them in seven career starts. They are 0-1 in their brief exposure to Smyly, whose ERA against the Yankees is 0.77. And they have had just slightly more success against Hellickson, who is 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA against them in six career starts.

And then there is the team they are playing, which despite its struggles this season has won seven of their 10 meetings so far, and the building in which they will be playing, where they have lost 25 of 39 games over the past five seasons, including two of the only three played there so far this season, back in April, when anything still seemed possible.

Now, anything good seems highly improbable, and all the talk in the world won't change that. At long last, it's time for some action.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146