Yankees offense sputters in 5-1 loss to Royals

Trade season has started to develop three weeks ahead of the non-waiver deadline and so far the Yankees have yet to be players. The need for an upgrade offensively from outside the organization has been painfully evident.

It was again Monday night as the Yankees had just three hits in a 5-1 loss to the Royals that featured nobody with a batting average over .233 in the final six spots of the starting lineup.

It was the Yankees’ second straight loss following a season-high six-game winning streak which featured four wins against last-place Minnesota. It also marked the 28th time the Yankees were held to two runs or less. Not surprisingly, they are 1-27 in those games after Jeremy Guthrie kept them off-balance for most of his 6 2/3 innings.

“We did it in Minnesota,” manager Joe Girardi said of the lineup scoring 29 runs last week. “Guthrie’s been tough. I watched a couple of his starts. He’s throwing the ball well and he kept us off-balance.”

After a 59-minute rain delay, the crowd’s displeasure was audible as it booed Travis Ishikawa, making his first start with the Yankees, and Luis Cruz for striking out for the first two outs of the fifth inning after Vernon Wells singled.

The only thing the crowd had to cheer was a short-lived comeback attempt in the seventh. Lyle Overbay hit New York’s first home run in six games followed by a base hit by Ichiro Suzuki.

Overbay was batting for Ishikawa, who has a .105 average, while Ichiro batted for Alberto Gonzalez, who has a .194 mark. The Yankees made a third move for better offense by pinch hitting Eduardo Nunez for Austin Romine, who is hitting .132, but Nunez flailed at a 2-2 changeup from Tim Collins.

The Yankees are believed to have interest in Michael Young. Philadelphia’s director player of personnel and his assistant attended Sunday’s game at Double-A Trenton while the Yankees had a scout in Philadelphia for this weekend’s series with Atlanta.

Young went 3-for-7 over the final two games of the series and had two hits Monday against Washington. However, a visiting scout said the Yankees were unsure of what they were going to do in terms of trades.

At the moment, the Yankees are waiting for the left side of their infield, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, to finish up rehab games and make their season debuts.

Until those two show they can hit, there could be more nights like Monday, featuring a decently pitched game with little margin of error and an increasingly restless crowd.

Sunday it was Hiroki Kuroda pitching seven scoreless innings and throwing 88 pitches in 92-degree heat. He only had a 1-0 lead as the Yankee offense consisted of a sacrifice fly and six singles.

Tuesday night Phil Hughes gave up two runs and four hits over four innings before the rain delay ended his night at 62 pitches. He gave up a solo home run to Billy Butler and an RBI double to David Lough in the second.

“It was tough,” Hughes said. “I felt like I may have found something in the third or fourth inning. I was throwing the ball better.”

Hughes easily could have been describing the offense, especially once a pitcher gets by Robinson Cano and into his lack of protection.

Cano had a two-out single in the first, then made the second out of the fourth with a ground ball. He had a chance to do some sort of damage after Brett Gardner walked with one out in the fourth but on a 2-2 fastball he grounded out to shortstop on a shift.

He was unintentionally walked in the eighth only to see Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells get out behind him. In the ninth he was left in the on-deck circle after the Yankees struck out three times with the bases loaded.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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