Yankees get off the singles treadmill

Drastic times call for drastic measures. The Yankees’ lineup Tuesday night against Rangers righthander Alexi Ogando did not contain Travis Hafner. Surprised? Probably not. The only surprising thing about is that Hafner is a designated hitter only who bats left-handed. If not in the batting order against a right-handed starting pitcher, then when?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t hesitate to answer when questioned by reporters at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. “He’s just not being productive,” the skipper said.

The numbers do not lie. After a torrid April in which he batted .318 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 66 at-bats, Hafner cooled off to the point since then of hitting .172 with six homers and 20 RBI in 186 at-bats. Pronk’s batting average is down to .210 while his OPS is below .700 (.699), not a good neighborhood for someone whose contribution is limited to his offense.

Disregarding platoon notions, Girardi went with right-handed-batting Vernon Wells as the DH with another righty swinger, recent Triple A Scranton callup Melky Mesa, in left field. The move had an early payoff when Mesa jump-started the Yankees in a two-run third inning that ended the Yankees’ 14-inning shutout string.

Mesa’s leadoff double, a hard liner to the gap in left-center, was the Yankees’ first extra-base hit in 24 innings coming after 21 consecutive singles. After going so long without extra-base power, the Yankees got another double immediately, by Austin Romine, for their first run of the game. Singles by Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki got home a second run, but Robinson Cano defused the rally by grounding into a double play.

Still, the Yankees ended a 22-inning scoring drought against Texas pitching. According to Baseball Reference.com, the Rangers (after shutting out the Yankees on three hits Monday night and with their June 27 victory at Yankee Stadium with Derek Holland pitching a 2-0, two-hitter) were the first team to throw consecutive shutouts with three or fewer hits in each game against the Yankees since the Red Sox June 21-22, 1916. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that those games were a complete-game no-hitter by Rube Foster and a complete game three-hitter by Babe Ruth, both at Fenway Park.

Wells joined the doubles parade with a leadoff two-bagger in the fourth, his first extra-base hit in 24 at-bats since July 12. He displayed some alert running skills by crossing to third on a flyout to medium center field by Eduardo Nunez and beating a play at home to score on a fielder’s-choice grounder to second base by Brent Lillibridge.

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