The Yankees dropped Sunday’s finale against the Houston Astros and, although they were able to split the series despite a terrible opener on Friday and an absolute mess of a start on Saturday from Masahiro Tanaka, the best way to describe Sunday’s game was disappointing.
Michael Pineda, the good version, showed up in a big way on Sunday, giving the team 8 innings and 8 strikeouts while giving up just 2 ERs. He saved a bullpen that had already thrown 9+ innings in the first three games of the series. Big Mike deserved better. His offense (mustered just 2 hits, 2 BBs and 1 run) and his defense (key error by Brett Gardner led to a run) saddled him a loss on Sunday afternoon.
This was a game the Yankees needed to win. With the rest of the A.L. East springing to life around them, the Yankees high powered and expensive offense needs to do better than the lackluster and inconsistent performances they have delivered as of late. The feast or famine approach of the offense puts strain on a pitching staff that is already facing its own problems of ineffectiveness (CC Sabathia), inconsistency (Tanaka, Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi) and lack of recent history (Ivan Nova and Adam Warren).
In the past two weeks the Yankees have fallen out of first place and currently stand in third place with only 0.5 games (1.0 in the loss column) separating them from fourth place. With three games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim next on the list, followed by an off day, then three against the division leading Tampa Bay Rays, now would be a great time for the Yankees to settle back into a groove.
The good news is that Jacoby Ellsbury, out over a month with a knee sprain, looks like he could return in a week. It’s unfair to expect him to immediately resume his torrid pace (.324 BA, 14 SBs) but his mere presence makes the lineup longer, and the hope is he and Brett Gardner, who is turning in the best performance of his career, can eventually go back to wreaking havoc at the plate and on the base paths.
The bad news is, as good as Ellsbury has been, he can’t pitch for this team. The Yankees need length from their starters and need key pieces of their bullpen to step up while Andrew Miller lingers on the sidelines.
With just 12 games until the All-Star Break, the Yankees have a chance to climb back to the top of the heap. With a little more consistency and health, that’s definitely not out of the question.