Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer Tuesday night off the Yankees. Credit: Getty Images
The Yankees have bigger problems than six straight losses to the Mets but it was never more apparent than Tuesday night.
The starting pitching has developed into a mess on the four nights Masahiro Tanaka does not pitch as Vidal Nuno slogged through 3 1/3 laborious innings in a 12-7 loss that took nearly four hours.
Nuno allowed seven runs (five earned) and four hits in 3 1/3 innings. He struggled to throw strikes as he issued four walks but the Mets ran his pitch count up quickly with long at-bats and consistent foul balls.
The Yankees are 4-0 when Tanaka, who pitches Wednesday, starts and 4-11 when he doesn’t. Overall they’ve dropped four in a row and 10 of 14 since opening the season with a 15-10 record.
So far, the Yankees have three starters on the disabled list with varying timetables for their stay and they have used eight starting pitchers. It will likely be nine starters Thursday when someone, possibly Chase Whitley, is called up. Suddenly the Yankees have a rotation like they did this time seven years ago when names like Matt DeSalvo, Tyler Clippard and Darrell Rasner were taking the mound.
The Yankees touted their rotation depth entering the season, but CC Sabathia has been mediocre at best and is currently disabled with a knee injury. Ivan Nova is lost for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda looked good before he was caught cheating with pine tar and injured his back.
Those who remain have been inconsistent.
"It's not like we're buried,” manager Joe Girardi said. “There's no one that's taken off in our division. There's other people that are dealing with things, but obviously we have to right the ship. We've got to start playing better and pitching better and doing everything more consistently.
“We've got to go out and win a game tomorrow. A lot of times that changes the mood and you get some distance out of Tanaka and your bullpen is not taxed so much. It can change things a lot."
Though Hiroki Kuroda has improved recently, he still appears to be continuing his decline from the second half of last season. David Phelps has shown some good things but not enough. And at this point the trade market for starting pitching has not taken shape for general manager Brian Cashman.
“That's not my job,” Girardi said. “That's Brian's job. My job is to manage the players that he gives me. I'm sure he's searching. He's always searching to make our team better. That's what we do here. The state of pitching in the major leagues, with all the injuries, I don't think there's a surplus laying around. It's tough."
After a trio of close losses due to bullpen failures, it was the start that set a difficult tone for the Yankees Tuesday.
“Doing my part is throwing strikes and the command wasn't there,” Nuno said. “Four walks is just kind of frustrating. It's just annoying that that's not my game. ... I've got four more days until my next outing, so I'll just keep at what I've been doing — my routine — and go on from there.”
While the Yankees continued their malaise, the Mets continued a slight uptick with their third straight win. The Mets equaled their longest winning streak of the year in a game they pitched equally as bad.
The only difference was the Mets had Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson. The trio torched Yankee pitching by going 6-for-11 with nine RBIs and six runs scored.
The Yankees scored seven runs on nine hits while also getting 10 walks — numbers good enough to win most nights. But they didn’t help themselves by hitting into three double plays and going 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The combination of bad pitching and not enough offense was not the only frustrating component for the Yankees. The other one came after the fifth inning when Girardi was tossed by plate umpire Jerry Layne for disputing the strike zone.
“You saw the pitches that inning — runners in scoring position, still a lot of at-bats left,” Girardi said. “All I said was, 'Come on, Jerry. Those pitches were on the white line,' and he tossed me. I'll tell you, there are days where I deserve to get tossed. I will not lie to you. There are days where I deserve to get fined. I will not lie to you about that. You've seen I get pretty animated and angry. I didn't say nothin'!”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.