Few positives in shellacking to Orioles

After an 11-3 loss there is not much positive to dwell on. The Yankees were out of Saturday night’s game early as the Orioles scored four runs in the first inning and had a 9-0 lead in the third against David Phelps. Ivan Nova replaced him and pitched pretty well for 5 2/3 innings to save the bullpen.

Normally, I am critical of clubs that carry more than 11 pitchers. It just seems to me that a six-man bullpen ought to be enough. The Yankees are currently carrying 13 pitchers, which leaves the manager with a three-man bench of position players. That may not be a major problem in the American League where there is less pinch hitting because of the designated hitter. Still, when one of those bench players is someone like Travis Hafner, who no longer plays in the field, the situation can hamper a manager.

On the other hand, the Yankees are in a stretch of games on 20 consecutive days. And with Phelps failing to get through the third inning, Joe Girardi probably felt better about having the extra arms in the pen. This was a real turnaround for Phelps, who had been undefeated over his previous nine starts dating to Aug. 27 last year against AL East competition with a 4-0 record and 3.91 ERA over that period covering 53 innings. Saturday night’s line for Phelps was truly ugly – 2 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 9 runs, all earned, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 home runs – as his ERA rose from 4.01 to 4.95.

Chris Davis showed why he is a Triple Crown candidate by driving in five runs with his 29th and 30th home runs of the season. His three-run shot off Phelps in the first put the Orioles in control. Davis’ second homer was a two-run shot off Nova, the only blemish on his appearance. Phelps also gave up another three-run homer, to Ryan Flaherty in the third, that ended his outing.

For the second straight night, the Yankees banged out 11 hits but scored only three runs. They had 3-for-16 (.188) with runners in scoring position. This marked the fifth straight loss by the Yankees when facing a left-handed starting pitcher. Zach Britton gave up two runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Both runs were scored in the sixth when the Yankees had only one hit in a rally fueled by three walks and an error. Their other run came in the ninth off reliever Pedro Strop on successive doubles by Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner, who was left stranded at second base.

The Yankees are 15-12 when opposed by a left-handed starter but have lost six of their past seven such games. Their current losing streak to left-handed starters is their longest since dropping their final nine such games in September 2010. Despite the winning record against left-handed starters, the Yankees are definitely vulnerable in those games because their right-handed batters continue to struggle. For the season righty swingers are hitting .216 with 24 home runs in 1,178 at-bats.

And the 3-4-5 positions in the order, normally the most productive hitters on a team, have been a weakness. The Yanks’ hitters in those spots have combined to hit .213 with 38 homers in 911 at-bats.

The Yankees as a team have not homered in their past three games and in just three of their past 10 games. They have hit only two home runs over their past 10 road games since June 7. The Yankees are 9-24 this year when they don’t homer. Last year they were 7-24, which means they already have two more games in which they have not homered than all of last year, and they still have 82 games left on the schedule.

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