The Yankees will do their share of scoreboard watching in September. Over the next two weekends, they just have to look across the field.
Last night began a stretch of seven games in the next week against the Orioles and it did not go well for the Yankees, who generated virtually nothing against Miguel Gonzalez and saw their lead in the AL East reduced to two games with a 6-1 loss.
“It’s that time of the year,” Eric Chavez said. “We know what’s going on and we don’t have to look at the scoreboard because we’re playing the team that we’re going to be looking at. We’re probably going to be doing that for the next couple of weeks. We need to clean up what we’re doing in here.”
Cleaning up would entail being able to get more than four hits against Gonzalez, whose deceptive fastball they could not catch up to.
“A lot of first pitch strikes, a lot of first pitch strikes. I talked to [hitting coach Kevin Long] after my second at-bat and said, ‘Man this dude is just pumping strikes and he’s just filling up the strike zone tonight,’” Nick Swisher said. “I don’t think we had any walks tonight. We thrive on being able to wear a pitcher down and tonight, man, he put it on us.”
“I thought a lot of times we got beat by the fastball. That’s the bottom line and he made some good off-speed pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I was satisfied with our at-bats. I think our guys’ effort is great. I think they’re grinding it out. Right now it’s not happening for us.”
In their ninth loss in 14 games dating back to Aug. 15, the Yankees couldn’t wear Gonzalez down because they frequently fell behind. They faced 10 0-2 counts against him and eight of them resulted in strikeouts.
“He was beating us with every pitch to be honest with you,” Chavez said. “Sometimes you get beat and tonight we got beat by a guy who was better than us.”
Though he dominated the Yankees overall, Gonzalez and Oriole pitching were especially dominant against Swisher, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Chavez. Granderson had a ninth-inning home run, but that quartet went a combined 2-for-15 with 10 strikeouts.
“His fastball was getting on hitters quicker than we thought,” Girardi said. “He made an adjustment a little bit as we got later in the game and at that point it was too late.”
It was too late because of two bad pitches made by Hiroki Kuroda, who lost consecutive starts for the first time since mid-May. Kuroda allowed four runs and eight hits in 8 1/3 innings.
He was doomed by a 2-0 sinker to Mark Reynolds that was crushed into the front row of the second deck in left field for a 3-0 lead in the second inning. After retiring 12 straight, he hung a 1-1 slider that J.J. Hardy sent into the left field seats.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “I just made a mistake and it cost us the game.”
The Yankees could not overcome Gonzalez and Kuroda’s two bad pitches because in their limited opportunities with runners in scoring position, they couldn’t get it done. After going 3-for-17 Wednesday, they were 0-for-4 last night.
“No, it’s just one bad game,” Swisher said. “Right now that’s where we are. If you would have told me at the end of spring training or getting ready to start the season, we would have been two games up at the start of September, I would have signed up for that.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.