Commentary

Time for Yanks to find reinforcements

Without some outside help, these Yankees might as well just wave the white flag

Updated: June 27, 2013, 8:50 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Derek Holland needed just 92 pitches and less than 2½ hours to expose the truth about the Yankees' offense.

Holland had started seven previous games against the Yankees and had come up empty each time, his career record against them an unsightly 0-5, and his ERA a bulging 8.85.

But that was against The Yankees, upper case. The Real Yankees. Against these yankees, lower case, the JV version that has been playing nightly in the Bronx for the past nine days, Holland had as easy a day as a pitcher can have in facing a major league team.

Over nine innings, he held them to two hits -- two measly singles -- walked one, and allowed just one runner to get as far as second base, and that was back in the fourth inning. Even with his own lack of run support -- the Rangers scored just twice off Phil Hughes, who picked a heck of a day to pitch his best game of the season -- Holland was able to lead Texas to a 2-0 win over the Yankees.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesRobinson Cano and the Yankees were humbled by Derek Holland, who had been winless at Yankee Stadium before Thursday.

In so doing, Holland put the lie to what has been Joe Girardi's standard line this season: "We're just struggling right now," as if this is a temporary affliction, a baseball flu that will be knocked out with a couple of aspirin and some bed rest.

But this is not a temporary affliction, or one of those low spells that even baseball's most potent offenses experience over the course of 162 games.

This is a systemic illness caused by a fatal lack of pop in the batting order. And it is not going to clear up on its own.

The Yankees need some help, and they need it now.

On this day, 79 games into the season, the Yankees were shut out for the seventh time in 2013 -- one more than they were in all of 2012, when a lot of Yankees fans merely thought the offense was bad.

This one is truly bad. So bad, Wednesday was the third time the Yankees have been shut out in the month of June. And there are still three more chances before the calendar turns.

How good could Holland really have been, anyway? One of the two Yankees singles came off the bat of Austin Romine, who, coming in, was hitting .138 and looking quite overmatched against big league pitching most nights. So clearly, Holland was not unhittable.

And yet the Yankees couldn't hit him. Robinson Cano, their best hitter, went 0-for-2 with a walk. And promptly got himself erased trying to advance on a wild pitch that was plucked out of the air neatly by Rangers catcher Geovany Soto.

Vernon Wells, the cleanup hitter, struck out in all three of his at-bats and looked progressively worse each time. Even with a key pinch-hit single in Wednesday's 8-5 loss, Wells has managed just 11 hits in his past 99 at-bats.

That is no longer a small sample or a run-of-the-mill batting slump. It looks more like the end of what had been a very good career.

Lyle Overbay, the everyday first baseman now that Mark Teixeira is done for the season, went 0-for-3. He is hitting .236.

Alberto Gonzalez, the third baseman du jour with the Yankees still waiting on Alex Rodriguez, is hitting .188. David Adams, who played second while Cano spent the day at DH, is hitting .179. Romine's third-inning single raised his average to an even .150. Zoilo Almonte, who has taken the left-field job away from Wells, is at a healthy-looking .318, but that is down from .625 early in the week.

The only Yankee hitting with any regularity is 39-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who led the Yankees' first inning off with a single and was promptly erased in a double play.

And the only good news aside from Hughes' performance was that the Yankees were only 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, a real weakness for them last season. But that's what happens when you don't put anyone on base.

No wonder Joe Girardi disgustedly flipped a white towel onto the field as the Rangers lined up to high-five Holland at the end of the game.

The gesture was more than symbolic. Without reinforcements, these Yankees might just as well wave the white flag now.

"If you don't score runs, that becomes an issue," a testy Girardi said, in profound understatement. "I believe we're capable of scoring runs. I think we can. But time will tell."

Time, however, is not on his or the Yankees' side right now. The loss concluded a nine-game homestand against relatively easy competition -- six were against the last-place L.A. Dodgers and the mediocre Tampa Bay Rays -- and still the Yankees managed to lose five of them.

Now they head to Baltimore, against a young, hungry and still-improving Orioles team that is locked into a battle with the Yankees for second place in the division. Their once-healthy cushion of 12 games over .500 on May 25 has been whittled down to a half-dozen, and they have to play every day between now and the All-Star break, 17 consecutive games, on aging legs and with tired bats.

And between now and then, there really isn't much help to be had. Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Michael Pineda are still probably close to a month away.

Derek Jeter is further away than that. And nobody knows when, or if, A-Rod will return to the lineup, or if he will be able to approach even the diminished level of play he displayed last season.

If ever GM Brian Cashman had to demonstrate his skill for midcourse correction, it's now.

"I think we've shown that with the guys that are in this lineup, especially early on in the year, we were able to do enough to win games," Wells said. "We just haven't done that consistently lately."

"Lately" is verging on more than a month now -- and for Wells, even longer than that. Wells has not hit a home run since May 15, a stretch of 116 at-bats, the longest on the team. He is not producing nor is he protecting anyone in the lineup.

"I think we get into trying to do too much and then it kind of snowballs a little bit," said Lyle Overbay, who on Wednesday hit his first Yankee Stadium home run since May 4. "We've got some good hitters. If we get those timely hits, we can be effective. We're not doing that right now."

He, too, spoke as if this is a condition that might clear up tomorrow morning. But nearly halfway through the season, it is obvious this is not going to go away on its own. The Yankees aren't out of the race yet, not by a mile. But without some outside help there is no way they'll be able to stay in it for very long.

The trading deadline is approaching and it is time for Cashman to do some shopping, if he hasn't already started. The Yankees have surplus pitching -- with Pineda on the way back, either Hughes or Ivan Nova could be expendable, as is Joba Chamberlain -- and there are teams like the Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox and Cubs who will no doubt be looking to deal.

Since back in spring training, Cashman has said he believed the answers to his team's many problems were right in his own clubhouse.

But by now, even the most fervent believer has to realize that's no longer the case.

The answers are outside the room, and it is time for the GM to go and find them.

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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