Yanks fall below .500, latest in season since ’07

South of .500 went the Yankees Wednesday on what should have been a feel-good day with a special ceremony commemorating Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech of 75 years ago. A moving video before the game featured Derek Jeter and baseball’s 30 current first baseman reading the entire text of the Iron Horse’s impromptu address in which he essentially bid farewell to the sport because of his illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that now bears his name.

The 6-3 loss to the Rays before a crowd of 42,343 at Yankee Stadium was a dismal end to a very disappointing homestand as well as a 15-game stretch against American League East foes in which they could have made some real headway.

“It started off good and ended badly,” Girardi said of the stretch in which the Yankees swept a three-game set from the Blue Jays and proceeded to lose nine of the next 12 games, including the past five in a row, their longest losing steak of the season. “We lost every series after sweeping Toronto and had chances to win a number of games.”

You probably keep reading media accounts of how the Yankees are in the market to improve their pitching. Well, during the past homestand, pitching was the least of their problems. The Yanks’ staff pitched to a 3.16 ERA in the six games. That is good enough to win a lot more than one game usually.

A greater problem for the Yankees is their offense. They averaged 3.17 runs per game in the homestand while hitting .222 as a team and slugging .362, appalling numbers. They batted .146 in 41 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees were without two of their most productive hitters, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury, in Wednesday’s game due to minor ailments. Tex had fluid drained from his right knee while Ellsbury, in manager Joe Girardi’s words, was “banged up.”

Yet a lineup in which the 3-through-6 hitters were all batting under .230 managed to get 10 hits, including home runs by Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, but were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“We swung the bat better, but in a couple of rallies we couldn’t get the big hit,” Girardi said. “We’re being outscored and out-hit at home.”

The Yankees’ record at the Stadium is 18-23. Overall, it is 41-42, the first time they have been under .500 since April 11 when they were 5-6 after the 11th game of the season. It is the latest point in a season that the Yankees have been under .500 since 2007 when they were 42-43 July 7. The Yankees went on to a 94-68 record that season and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card entry, so there is still hope.

“I don’t see confidence as a problem,” Girardi said. “I still believe in this team because there is talent in that room. We need to play better.”

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