Yankees’ offense continues to be offensive

Andy Pettitte wore the hair shirt after the Yankees’ 8-3 loss Thursday night to the Rays, but this was really another example of an offense that has had trouble clicking of late. The Yankees have the second lowest batting average in the American League and rank 13th of 15 clubs in scoring.

In their seventh loss in the past nine games, the Yankees’ team on-base percentage fell below .300, and their slugging percentage is well below .400. What is going on is nothing short of an epidemic.

The way their offense is sputtering these days the Yanks can use all the help they can get. They got it from opposing pitcher Matt Moore in the sixth inning when they were able to score three runs despite getting only one hit to get back into the game. Tampa Bay had a 4-0 lead at the start of the inning, but the Yankees cut the deficit to 4-3 thanks in large part to wildness by Moore.

Control problems have been a recent issue for Moore, who started the season 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA before losing his past three starts with a 13.86 ERA and 11 walks in 12 1/3 innings that raised his season ERA to 4.12. The lefthander was working on a two-hit shutout entering the sixth when the Yankees finally got something going.

Reid Brignac, who started at shortstop because manager Joe Girardi wanted his best defensive alignment behind Pettitte, led off the sixth with a single to center. Moore then filled the bases with walks to Brett Gardner and Jayson Nix and had to contend with Robinson Cano. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score and advanced the other two runners.

Cano hit a smoking liner to deep center field for a sacrifice fly that also put Nix on third base. The Rays kept the infield back and conceded a run as Travis Hafner made the second out on a grounder to the right side.

Pettitte was hoping for a shutdown inning in the seventh to keep it a one-run game, but with two out Desmond Jennings and Sean Rodriguez touched the lefthander for successive doubles that marked the end of his outing. The Rays had nine hits in 6 2/3 innings off Pettitte, who walked one batter, struck out six and threw a wild pitch.

“Matt lets our guys get back in the game, and Joe has confidence in me to get Rodriguez out to get us out of the inning and I give back another run,” Pettitte said. “It was another disappointing outing for me, very frustrating. My command in the zone isn’t where it needs to be. My fastball command isn’t there. I got to have my fastball. I can’t just throw cutters and curves.”

The wild pitch took away the possibility of Andy getting out of a second-inning jam with a double play ball as Tampa Bay got its first run on a sacrifice fly by Jose Lobaton. Three hits in a row and a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria in the third pushed the Rays’ lead to 3-0. Longoria, who has had little success against Pettitte (3-for-23 career) got his second RBI of the game with a leadoff home run to right-center in the sixth.

“Andy didn’t make too many mistakes, but when he did they were big ones,” manager Joe Girardi said.

In losing his second straight start, Pettitte (5-5, 4.20 ERA) fell to 2-5 with a 5.13 ERA (52.2IP, 30ER) in his past nine starts covering 52 2/3 innings and is winless in his past five starts at Yankee Stadium (0-3, 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings).

Moore also departed in the seventh after a one-out double by Lyle Overbay, the Yankees’ first extra-base hit in 18 innings. Overbay made a base-running blunder by trying to cross to third base on a grounder to shortstop and was thrown out to spike a major scoring opportunity. When teams are struggling for runs, plays such as that appear to be over-aggressive but turn out to be self-destructive.

It all became academic as the Rays continued their display of extra-base power. Longoria hit his second homer of the game leading off the eighth against Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan gave up a two-run shot to Yunel Escobar on a towering drive into the net beyond the center-field wall.

The Yankees lost an opportunity to gain ground on the first-place Red Sox and remained 3 ½ games behind them but are just 1 ½ games ahead of the fourth-place Rays. The last-place Blue Jays have gotten hot lately with an eight-game winning streak to get within one game of the .500 level. Things are tightening up in the division.

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