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Yesterday brought more missed opportunities with runners in scoring position and another home-team loss at Yankee Stadium, so we welcome you to the Great Bronx Drought of 2012.
Your reigning American League East champions fell to the Reds, 6-5, for their fourth defeat in five games, and they have scored a total of 13 runs in those contests. While this game signified progress, the trouble in clutch situations still makes Yankees baseball feel like a Deadball Era production at modern-day Tiffany prices.
“People are jumping off bridges,” said Nick Swisher, who delivered one of the team’s two hits with runners in scoring position, both during a ninth-inning rally. “In here, we’re calm.”
the Yankees’ struggles with runners in scoring position cost them in yesterday’s 6-5 home loss to the Reds." title="APPLE SCORE: Raul Ibanez contributes an RBI double in the fourth inning, but the Yankees’ struggles with runners in scoring position cost them in yesterday’s 6-5 home loss to the Reds." width="300" height="250" src="/rw/nypost/2012/05/20/sports/web_photos/20.1s089.DavidoffC--300x250.jpg" />
APPLE SCORE: Raul Ibanez contributes an RBI double in the fourth inning, but the Yankees’ struggles with runners in scoring position cost them in yesterday’s 6-5 home loss to the Reds.
It may not be a good sign for the Yankees that the excitable Swisher emerged as a voice of reason. Yet you can’t argue with his point. As frustrating as the team’s hitting has been as of late for the fans, there’s a paucity of evidence to believe there’s a real problem.
The oddest part of looking at these Yankees, now 21-19, is most of the lineup is performing somewhere in the neighborhood of reasonable expectations. Even the recently power-deprived Alex Rodriguez isn’t killing his team, not with a .377 on-base percentage.
The two very notable exceptions are Mark Teixeira, who sat out again yesterday and likely will miss today to deal with severely inflamed bronchial airways, and Russell Martin, who stroked a solo, third-inning homer but struck out in the crucial ninth.
No, the key culprit is, once again, that inability to hit with runners in scoring position. For the season, the Yankees have a .231 batting average (77-for-334), .326 on-base percentage and .407 slugging percentage, compared with a line of .273/.361/.455 last year. After going 2-for-7 yesterday, they are mired in a 5-for-55 funk.
“As of late, we haven’t been getting the job done,” Martin said. “It takes one day for that to change.”
Yesterday looked like it could be that day. Just when it seemed like they would rally to victory against Reds closer Sean Marshall, manager Dusty Baker aggressively lifted Marshall — with two runs in, Yankees on first and second and one out — for Jose Arredondo to go after Derek Jeter. The Yankees’ captain beat out a double-play grounder, keeping the game alive while advancing Andruw Jones to third, yet Curtis Granderson’s groundout to first left the Yankees 90 feet short.
Fans tend to view such results as some sort of moral failing. Men with bigger hearts and guts would come through more often in these situations, after all.
The truth is probably far more boring. These things run in cycles. First the Yankees went into a pitching slump, and now they’re in a hitting slump. The greater problem occurs when a team doesn’t get anyone on base at all, and the Yankees rank among the American League leaders with a .338 on-base percentage.
A-Rod, who hasn’t hit a homer in 45 plate appearances, said the team should focus on scoring “at least four runs a game.” That would work. With yesterday’s loss, they’re now 20-5 in such efforts.
More to the point, though, “You have to worry about the process,” Rodriguez said. “Not only my process, but the team’s process. We’re going to be fine.”
Joe Girardi, while conceding his team has been pressing in important moments, added, “It will turn, though. I know it will turn.”
On a day when the Yankees wound up delivering 11 hits and put Granderson — one of their best hitters — in an optimal position to tie the game, Girardi’s words seemed more rational than disingenuous.
If the drought continues for weeks, however? Then Swisher’s vows of the team being “chill” will seem more like a club in denial. For now, they get the benefit of the doubt.