Within the last week, Brandon McCarthy discussed not giving in during tough situations, Chris Capuano overwhelmed the Tigers with changeups, Esmil Rogers spoke about the confidence lacking in Toronto and Shane Greene nearly pitched a complete game.
But having four starters not in the rotation a month ago pitching well can’t mask an inconsistent offense.
The reality is that even with four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation, the inconsistencies of a team with a .252 average, 107 home runs and 38 games scoring two runs or fewer is how the Yankees will be remembered whether they make the playoffs or not.
All those inconsistencies were on display Sunday in a 4-1 loss to the Indians against a pitcher whose last win as a starting pitcher was over three years ago.
The offense scored 10 runs Friday but then went scoreless for 19 2/3 innings.
The Yankees nearly were shutout for the fifth time Sunday. Only a solo home run from Jacoby Ellsbury saved them from consecutive shutouts at home.
“These guys are human,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “It’s not like they’re going out there not trying to compete. It’s part of the game. That’s just the way it goes.”
“We ran into some pretty good pitching this week with the guys that we’ve faced,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “At times it is puzzling but that’s part of the game. You’re going to go through that as an offense and I’ve said all along we got caught up with seeing teams scoring 900 runs in the past. That’s not happening with things that have gone on in the game — the improved defense, the improved bullpens — you’re just not seeing as many runs.”
It seems the Yankees have yet to consistently find ways to get through those challenges no matter who they import and and how much money they spend.
The Yankees are six games behind Baltimore and 2 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race as they head to Camden Yards for their biggest series of the season.
The last time Long spoke after a game at Yankee Stadium was July 2 when the Yankees were 41-42 following a sweep by the Rays. They were 4 1/2 games out of first place and five games out in the second wild card.
Since then, they have been a respectable 20-14 while scoring 138 runs (4.05 per game) and going from a minus-37 run differential to a minus-25.
Eventually, respectable may not be good enough. Whether the Yankees have that in them at the plate, could decide whether their season ends on Sept. 28 or they make the postseason.
“They’re important games because we’re chasing them,” Girardi said before watching his offense struggle again. “They have a lead in our division and that’s where we want to be, on top of the division. I think we have 10 more games with them. But the important thing is that we continue to take series, like we have an opportunity to today. And you need to do that if you want to play in October.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.