Rarified air does not help Yankees
The two-game trip to Denver was supposed to be a soft spot in the Yankees’ schedule. Yeah, right. Despite facing starting pitchers with earned run averages as high as the altitude in Colorado, the Yankees lost both games. Rockies starters Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis were clearly more effective than the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova.
The Yanks put up a good fight Tuesday night. After falling behind by nine runs through seven innings, the Yankees exploded with a seven-run eighth against the underbelly of the Colorado bullpen, but their own relief corps got roughed up as well in a 13-10 loss, a typical Coors Field score. The Rockies kept it up Wednesday with a 13-hit assault to win, 6-3.
The holes in the batting order did not help. With no designated hitter in a National League park, Alex Rodriguez was reduced to one at-bat as a pinch hitter Tuesday night. With no Carlos Beltran, out with a sore left knee that was drained, or Mark Teixeira, on the 15-day disabled list due to a right knee cartilage tear, the Yankees’ lineup Wednesday featured as its cleanup hitter Chase Headley, who has hit all of three home runs.
All seven of the Yankees’ hits Wednesday were singles. They have just seven extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one home run) over their past five games after totaling 21 extra-bases hits (12 doubles, nine homers) in the four-game sweep of the Angels last week.
Coors Field is a place where struggling hitters can improve their statistics, which the Yankees certainly did Tuesday night but less so Wednesday. But for those who thought the Rockies would be easy pickings, it should be pointed out that both clubs entered play Wednesday with the same record — 31-33 — and Colorado is now one game better.
Manager Joe Girardi was justified in getting annoyed with media reports about the 11-game, home-and-home swing this week and next against the Rockies and Twins being a chance for the Yankees to gain ground against sub-par competition. Minnesota may have the worst record in the American League, but that does not mean the Twins intend to roll over and play dead the next four days in Minneapolis or next weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Girardi is correct when he says if the Yankees do not play well it does not matter who the opponent is. And after the recent five-game winning streak at home, the Yankees have now lost four games in a row. In three of those games, starting pitchers allowed five or more runs. Considering the shape of the Yankees’ batting order these days, that is too much to overcome on a regular basis.
Anyone who thought the Rockies were pushover knows nothing about the first five hitters in that lineup. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story combined to go 22-for-43 (.512) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs and 14 RBI with an .860 slugging percentage in the series. Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning Tuesday night off Andrew Miller was the first extra-base hit the lefthander has allowed to a left-handed batter all season. The Rockies also scored a run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning Wednesday.
The key to beating Colorado is to bash their pitchers. The Yanks did score 13 runs in two games, but their pitchers could not contain the Rockies, who scored in nine of the 16 innings they batted in the series.
Nova had a string of 24 scoreless innings in inter-league play end when he gave up a run in the third inning. The Yankees took the lead in the fourth on four singles and a throwing error by Rockies catchers Tony Wolters, but Nova was touched for four runs in the fourth that featured a walk and a stolen base by Blackmon, a run-scoring single by LeMahieu, a two-run home run by Arenado, a double by Story, and a two-out, RBI single by Mark Reynolds. Nova had a six-game winning streak in inter-play stopped and is now 8-2 against NL competition.
One bright spot about going to Minneapolis is that the Yankees will be back in the AL with Rodriguez available as the DH. Perhaps Beltran’s knee will allow him to return to the lineup as well. CC Sabathia, who has been the Yankees’ most consistent starting pitcher, draws the first assignment of the series Thursday night at Target Field.