Weird things were happening all over the place at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Robinson Cano hesitated for a split second trying to make a long, running, over-the-shoulder catch, a ball hit a patch of grass and went by Ichiro in center field, CC Sabathia backpedaled trying to get a pop-up only to see it fall behind him and Lyle Overbay had a ball go off his glove for an error.
And that’s just defensively.
Offensively, the Yankees flied into a pair of double plays and played an awful game against a team they often handle with ease. The finale of a bizarre first half highlighted more by who was not on the active roster concluded with a 10-4 loss to the Twins.
“It’s unusual,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Defense has been really good this year. Whatever reason, it wasn't today. We made some mistakes and gave them extra outs and it cost us."
The Yankees will go into the All-Star break at 51-44, which is respectable and in contention for one of the wild-card spots. They will go into the four-day break 6 1/2 behind the Red Sox and will open the second half at Fenway Park on Friday.
“It’s not where I want to be,” Girardi said. “I think these guys have done a pretty good job. We've had a lot of change over here. We've had a lot of guys asked to do things they weren't expected to do when the winter started, but it’s not where we want be so I don't think anybody should be satisfied with where we’re at."
“I think everybody in here knows what we’re up against and what we need to do to try to make the playoffs and win the division,” Sabathia said.
It seemed like a fitting end to a weird first 95 games that has seen the Yankee plateau after a 29-14 stretch brought them from 1-4 to 30-18 and a one-game lead in the AL East. Since that point, the Yankees are 21-25 as injured players have returned only to quickly get re-injured.
“I think we've achieved a little more than outsiders would've thought,” Vernon Wells said. “I think we could've positioned ourselves a little better but this has been very unique when it comes to this uniform and the amount of injuries we've had.
“The guys have been in and out. I give it a passing grade but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Case in point this weekend, which was supposed to solidify shortstop with Derek Jeter’s long-awaited return from two fractured ankles. The return lasted four at-bats Thursday before a new injury (quadriceps) that may or may not land him on the DL.
And while the Yankees did decently holding it together at times, this is looking more like 2008 in reverse.
That year the Yankees had the offense but not the pitching, resulting in a 89-win season and the club’s first non-playoff season since going 76-86 in 1992 under manager Buck Showalter. This edition is on pace for 87 victories with an offense that batted .243 and a pitching staff that had a 3.74 ERA in the first half.
Yesterday neither component came together and the Yankees lost for just the ninth time in their last 40 home games against the Twins.
Sabathia labored through a four-inning outing, allowing eight runs (three earned) and eight hits, throwing 93 pitches to 23 hitters. It was his shortest regular season start not impacted by rain since having a similar line in 2 2/3 innings at Tampa Bay in his final start of 2009 when the Yankees had everything wrapped up for the postseason.
The Yankee offense consisted of a solo home run by Ichiro after Minnesota reached eight runs, an RBI single by Cano and a pair of run-scoring groundouts. They hit into four double plays, went 1-for-16 with men on base and split the 10 games in their final homestand of the first half before spending much of the next three weeks on the road.
“It was just one of those games where kind of everything we could do wrong went wrong defensively,” Wells said. “It was an ugly game."
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.