Standings coming into play
My rule of thumb is not to pay attention to the standings until June. Well, here June is, so the standings start to come into focus for the Yankees, whose 10-2 loss to Seattle Monday night placed them four games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the American League East.
There is no need to panic at such a time of the season, but it is beyond the point where “it’s still early” can be referenced. The Yankees are one-third of the way through the schedule, and they need to make sure that to paraphrase Yogi Berra it does not get late early out there. They have lost three of their past four games against the underwhelming Twins and Mariners and have not looked particularly sharp on defense nor have they had much bite on offense.
More disturbing is their struggling at Yankee Stadium. They are 4-10 at home since April 29. The Mariners have won their past five games at the Stadium dating to May 15, 2013, their longest such streak since a six-game stretch from Aug. 18, 2001 through April 29, 2003. During the streak, Seattle starting pitchers are 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings.
The Yankees allowed at least 10 runs in a game for the seventh time this season, matching their total from all of 2013.
David Phelps has not allowed a home run in his past nine home starts (spanning 48 1/3 innings), the most for a Yankees starting pitcher since 1984 by Shane Rawley (13 starts) and Ray Fontenot (12). Phelps has allowed only one homer at home since Sept. 16, 2012, a span of 19 appearances. That was by the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion April 26, 2013.
It was not the home run that hurt Phelps Monday night in the rain-makeup game against the Mariners but rather the three-base hit. Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager tripled twice and scored each time, on a single by Mike Zunino in the second inning and on a fielder’s choice in the fourth.
The Yankees got Phelps back into the game in the bottom of the fourth against Felix Hernandez on a single by Brian McCann, a double by Yangervis Solarte and a two-out infield single by Ichiro Suzuki. Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson also singled, but Ichiro was thrown out at the plate as the Yankees failed to take the lead.
The undoing for the Yankees was an unkempt seventh inning that resulted in four runs for the Mariners. With runners on first and second and none out, Phelps tried to get the lead runner at third on a sacrifice bunt by Endy Chavez, but his throw was a hair late and Seattle had the bags full. A two-run single by Brad Miller broke the tie.
Matt Thornton replaced Phelps at that point. James Jones pushed the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice, and both scored on Brad Miller’s single under the glove of Johnson at first base playing for the injured Mark Teixeira.
The home run was more of a problem for Alfredo Aceves, who gave up two of them in the ninth inning as the Mariners pulled away for good. Michael Saunders homered with the bases empty, and Seager went deep with two aboard. It was quite a night for Seager — two triples, a double and a homer. Aceves has allowed eight home runs in 18 1/3 innings this year.