Gardner explodes, Yanks implode

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner exploded, ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground with all his force.

All and all, it was rare showing of Yankees power in the batter's box.

Gardner, in his major league debut as a No. 3 hitter, had just struck out on a questionable call to leave the bases loaded in the fifth inning. It was the third time -- second looking -- that Gardner had gone down in three at-bats. Gardner even kicked a little dirt to point out how far outside he thought the ball arrived. He was ejected.

On this hot, muggy night, the feisty Gardner seemed as irritated as his team's fans.

In their latest must-have big series of the season, the Yankees barely showed up, trailing by six runs by the middle of the third to the last-place Red Sox.

It is not that the Yankees did not try -- no one is saying that -- it is just that starter Shane Greene had nothing, and the offense was typically worse in the 9-4 lost to their rival that moved them five back in the wild-card race.

"I felt like I got the bat taken out of my hands in a really big situation with the pitcher on the ropes," said Gardner, who came to bat as the tying run in a 7-3 game against Red Sox fireballer Joe Kelly. "I let my emotions get the best of me."

Gardner and Joe Girardi excused the ejection. Gardner said if given a do-over, he would do nothing differently, not acknowledging how important he is to the team's offense.

That offense is a bad joke at this point. It says something that even when Greene goes just 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs, including a couple of homers, the bats are still the story.

The New York Yankees -- with a $200 million payroll -- somehow are on the verge of being the worst offense in the American League. Boston, with the fewest runs in the AL, has scored just four fewer runs (539-535) than the "Bronx Bombers."

The really scary part, even though there are a few weeks left in Derek Jeter's farewell tour, is that the Yankees' roster seems largely inflexible.

In the offseason, the Yankees will have to be creative to improve their lot. The outfield -- with an investment of a cool quarter-billion in Jacoby Ellsbury, Gardner and Carlos Beltran -- may go unchanged. Mark Teixeira will be back at first. Alex Rodriguez will be in the spotlight at third. Brian McCann will be behind the plate. Martin Prado could be asked to shift all over the place.

That leaves Jeter's replacement at short and a new second baseman as the main, prime spots the Yankees possibly could improve their offense. However, it is hard to find power-hitting middle infielders.

The Yankees aren't giving up on this season, but it is hard to have any faith. They are quickly using up their allotment of losses. If they were to get to 90 wins, it would take a 20-6 run. Maybe 89 gets you in the second wild card, but 19-7 doesn't sound that much more doable, does it? How about 18-8 for 88?

With a lack of punch, they seemingly have to be a better fundamental team. In that same fifth inning in which Gardner was ejected, Girardi faulted Prado for failing to look up after nailing a ball off the left-field wall.

With Beltran stopping at third -- he thought Yoenis Cespedes might catch the ball -- McCann had to stay at second. Before Prado noticed, Xander Bogaerts was tossing to first to give Kelly the first out of the inning.

"It's tough," Girardi said. "We gave them one out. It looked like we were getting to him. That was a big out for him."

It was another big loss for the Yankees. On Tuesday, another day was ripped off the calendar as the Yankees failed to make an indent in the standings. Losers of four of their past five, the Yankees have shown little evidence they have a run in them. Gardner -- though ill-advised -- at least showed a little life.