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Yankees' bats need to offer pitchers relief

5/21/2014

CHICAGO -- While this type of Yankees offense can work against the worst team in baseball, a Cubs team that can't win a game for a starter with a 1.46 ERA, it won't take the Yankees to October.

As has been their history, the Lovable Losers from Chicago's North Side are like MLB's version of makeup: They can conceal any blemishes in the other dugout.

So the Yankees did win the nearly 5-hour, 13-inning marathon 4-2 Wednesday, but the rules state that somebody had to, and that somebody usually doesn't have a "C" on their cap.

What the win again covered up is the Yankees' warts on offense. Their failure to hit Wednesday resulted in Derek Jeter receiving four final standing ovations at Wrigley, because the game could never end. The Cubs were certainly not going to win, and the Yankees couldn't do it on their own either.

"I kept hoping it was the last one every time I went up there," said Jeter, who deserves all the applause he received in the eighth, 10th, 12th and 13th, but went 1-for-7 to lower his batting average to .267.

Look no further than the pitching staff to find the reason the Yankees haven't fallen apart. Who needs CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda when you have Chase Whitley, Dellin Betances and Preston Claiborne? Wednesday, Joe Girardi used all seven relievers behind Whitley. They kept the door closed, and finally the Cubs just beat themselves.

"It is why we won the game," Girardi said of Whitley and his bullpen.

Claiborne, who last batted seven years ago in the Cape Cod League, earned the win as much for his perfect bunt in the two-run 13th as for his 1 2/3 innings on the mound. Ex-Yankee Jose Veras couldn't throw a strike in the 13th, and, after Claiborne's bunt moved Brendan Ryan to third, Veras threw a wild pitch behind John Ryan Murphy to give the Yankees the lead. Murphy added an RBI single, as well.

At that point, David Phelps, scheduled to start on Thursday, had already been told to put on his spikes in preparation to pitch in relief. Phelps was unneeded, thanks mostly to Veras.

The Yankees had tied the game in the ninth in large part because former Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney threw away a ball trying to double up Ichiro Suzuki.

The Yankees don't play the Cubs anymore, so Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann -- the main men in the Yanks' offensive struggles -- need to pick it up soon.

The game went so long that Ellsbury may have escaped his slump. After going 0-for-4 in regulation, he added a couple of singles in the extra frames. He told Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long that was all he needed to snap his skid.

Maybe so, but still, during the pregame, Long painstakingly looked at "good, early-season Jacoby" compared to "bad, recent Jacoby" and found that he was curling his bat around his helmet a little too much. This caused him to be a little late to the ball, Long reasoned.

Ellsbury didn't seem to totally buy into the theory and didn't exactly act as if he were going to change anything. Still, they all were thrilled Ellsbury put a few points on his batting average to reach .272.

As for McCann, who went 1-for-2 with two walks (one of which came in the ninth-inning rally), everyone is still waiting for him to break out.

The Yankees' offense is not supposed to be built around Yangervis Solarte and Brett Gardner, who both had another two-hit day. They are the only regulars hitting better than .300. The other player who can be excused is Mark Teixeira, who is hitting the ball well, including a single in the two-run ninth.

But this works against the Cubs, who haven't been able to help Jeff Samardzija earn a win since August. In his past 16 starts, he hasn't finished with a "W" after his name. That includes a 0.67 ERA in four starts this month.

The Yankees' bats had to face Samardzija for seven innings, which is a fair excuse. Still, against the Cubs' shaky bullpen, they couldn't do a thing until Veras couldn't find the plate.

This type of baseball can last for only so long, if you don't play the Cubs every game.