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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
First Pitch: Even Jeter's worried

By Wallace Matthews

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Jeter is with the Yankees on this road trip, but listening to him talk after watching his team go down meekly to Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, on three hits Monday night, you wonder if he might have been better off returning home after the Yankees finished in Boston Sunday night.

"There's no way to sugarcoat it," he said after seeing the Yankees get shut out for the eighth time this season, 3-0. "We just haven't been very good lately. I've only been here for a couple of weeks so it's kind of hard for me to address the entire season, but we've got to find ways to score."

Jeter hopes to play this weekend when the Yankees return home, briefly, for three games against Tampa Bay. But since being shut down on July 11 with a strained quad, all he's done so far is hit off a tee in the indoor cage. He has yet to run the bases or face even a batting practice pitcher.

So his ability to offer any kind of immediate help is doubtful, to say the least, and with Alex Rodriguez not only back on the DL but firmly in MLB's crosshairs in the ever-intensifying Biogenesis investigation, it looks like the Yankees will have to play the hand they have been dealt at least until Curtis Granderson comes back in August. And frankly, barring a game-changing trade deadline deal, he may be the only one coming back, which would make it extremely difficult for the Yankees to remain afloat even for the second wild-card berth.

The ever-optimistic Joe Girardi continues to maintain that his team will eventually come around, even if the cavalry never comes riding through his clubhouse door.

“I still see the effort," he said. "Look at the last inning; 13-pitch at-bat, 14-pitch at-bat from [Brett Gardner]. If he gets on and Ichiro gets a hit, now you’re facing Robbie Cano and it’s a different game. You look at the catch Luis Cruz made, he doesn’t come out of the game. The effort has been tremendous.”

But even with optimal effort, the Yankees have been getting minimal results.

“"It's tough," Jeter said. "We're putting way too much pressure on our pitching staff. It's hard to pitch like that when we aren't scoring runs for them. You feel as though you've got to be perfect. I'm not a pitcher, but I can only assume because I've been in situations where you feel like you've got to score 10 runs. That puts a lot of pressure on your offense. But right now there's too much pressure on our pitching staff. We've got to find a way to score runs."

But, like just about anyone else you ask, Jeter could offer no ideas on how to go about doing that.

QUESTION: Do you share the Captain's concern? As currently constituted, do you think the Yankees will ever pull out of this nearly three-month long offensive funk? Or are they destined to be a weak-hitting outfit all season long unless the GM pulls off something remarkable at the trade deadline? Let us know below.

UP NOW: The Rapid Reaction from last night's loss to the Rangers, as well as plenty of Yankee reaction to the Ryan Braun suspension and its implications for Alex Rodriguez, plus my column on what Alex needs to do to salvage any last shreds of dignity in his career.

ON DECK: Game 2 of this four-game series, Phil Hughes (4-9, 4.57) vs. RHP Alexi Ogando (4-2, 2.93), first pitch at 8:05 p.m. Clubhouse opens at 4:35 p.m. and I'll be there with the lineups and all the pregame news shortly thereafter, so set your alarm clocks and stop in. And as always, thanks for reading.