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Sunday, July 14, 2013
Yanks break with much to be desired

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK --- Considering the New York Yankees' roster, the first half went about as well as it could, according to Joe Girardi, whose team enters the All-Star Break closer to last place than first in the AL East.

"I think our guys have probably done about as well as they could do," the Yankees' manager said before perhaps the lowest moment of the first half, an embarrassingly ugly 10-4 defeat to the Minnesota Twins to close out the first half.

With the seemingly daily injuries, the Yankees, playing a lot of backup to backups, are a respectable 51-44, but there is no buzz to their unlikely story and no real reason to believe there is October glory in this group's future.

There is no Matt Harvey or a must-see attraction luring fans to the Bronx. Attendance is nearly down 3,500 per game to announced crowds of less than 40,000. For what this franchise expects and has produced year after year for a couple of decades, this club feels very mediocre, very boring.

Sabathia
The Yankees look bad. Really, really bad.

Playing to the top of their abilities, they are a fourth-place team. They will go into next weekend's showdown series in Fenway trying to find a way to get hot again against the first-place Boston Red Sox. But the lineup, which daily features names like Luis Cruz, Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells gives little reason for hope.

Simply put, the offense is terrible. How bad is it? They have scored fewer runs than the New York Mets. The Mets!

The Mets have scored 376 runs in 91 games, while the Yankees have put up 373 in 95 games. That's four less games and no DH for most of them.

"We have to stay out of stretches where we don't score runs," Girardi said. "Where you score one and you score two the next day, we have to stay out of those stretches. We have to be more consistent offensively."

The starting pitching has been pretty consistent. One of the good long-term stories for the Yankees is their sudden starting depth.

They are at least seven deep, maybe eight or nine when you stretch to Triple-A. Hiroki Kuroda has passed the struggling Sabathia as the ace of the staff, while Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have been wishy-washy in the middle.

In back, David Phelps has emerged, while Ivan Nova has re-emerged. Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have shown future value. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda is finally healthy again and trying to find his 2011 All-Star form at Triple-A.

(By the way, as good as the starting pitching has been, the Mets are better in that category, too. Their starters' ERA is 3.78 compared to the Yankees' 3.96, which factors in the DH again.)

The Yankees' bullpen is championship-level quality. The legendary and ageless Mariano Rivera has been the best story of the season for the Yankees. He has come back from his knee surgery and put up 30 saves in the first half. He is leading from the back, with masterful handling from Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild, for a group that could slot in on any of the championship-caliber teams.

But something has to change with the offense. Maybe some of the cavalry will finally come back. Derek Jeter, now out with a quad injury, either could return as soon as Friday in Boston or might be headed to the DL. Curtis Granderson, who is swinging a broom in Tampa, might be back in August as his fractured left hand continues to heal. Alex Rodriguez is progressing up the rehab chain, but is trying to return from two hip surgeries and could face PED suspension, according to reports.

Jayson Nix, Francisco Cervelli and maybe even Kevin Youkilis could eventually help. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, with the wild-card berth in mind, could add a piece or two.

Sunday was a particularly bad loss, where they looked like one of those blooper-reel teams, and Sabathia couldn't bail himself out and was gone after four innings.

It left them on pace to win 87 games.

"I'm proud of this team," Sabathia said.

He should be. The guys in that clubhouse are not as talented, but they are just as professional as the players they have replaced.

"No matter what, we have dealt with a lot of adversity and to be right there in the middle of this thing is an accomplishment," Sabathia said.

The Yankees are just three back of the second wild card. They were 6½ games behind the Red Sox, pending Boston's game with Oakland on Sunday afternoon. The last-place Blue Jays are 5½ games behind the fourth-place Yankees.

The manager is right. In the first half, the Yankees did as well as they could expect. It is an accomplishment. It is also a scary thought when you think about the second half might look like.