In the last two weeks, the Yankees have dropped nearly four games in the AL East standings. Their lead has been reduced from 10 games to a slightly less comfortable 6 1/2 games.
After seeing Mark Teixeira leave with a wrist injury in the eighth inning of last night’s 5-4 loss to the Orioles, losing ground in the division became a secondary concern.
Teixeira was removed shortly after diving for J.J. Hardy’s sharp grounder, which got by him and went into right field for an RBI single in the seventh. Teixeira actually injured the wrist in his third at-bat against Felix Doubront Sunday night, but since postgame X-rays were negative, he did not sound concerned about it being a serious injury.
He will have an MRI Tuesday morning.
“I’m not crazy concerned because I tried to play through it,” Teixeira said. “It’s one of those things that if you really hurt yourself bad, you’re out and you can’t do much. I was kind of nursing it today when I was swinging. So hopefully it’s just a couple of days and I can get back out there.”
“I saw that he was shaking it and he looked pretty sore when he landed today. I had concerns,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I actually thought about taking him out right there and he said that he wanted to get through it defensively and see if he could swing a bat.”
Before Teixeira was lifted, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Ichiro hit home runs off Orioles’ rookie starter Miguel Gonzalez. Those shots gave the Yankees 163 for the season and marked the 18th straight home game with a home run.
Those home runs also accounted for nearly half of the Yankees’ eight hits.
Though a home run in the eighth would have helped after Ichiro’s 100th career blast chased Gonzalez in the seventh, any type of hit would have been sufficient. Derek Jeter opened the inning with a single up the middle but Curtis Granderson hit a fly ball to deep center field.
Jayson Nix, who came into the game for Mark Teixeira, hit into a force play at second, leaving it up to Robinson Cano. Cano made it 16 straight at-bats without a hit when he quietly tapped Pedro Strop’s fastball into the glove of second baseman Omar Quantanilla.
The same thing happened in the ninth against Baltimore closer Jim Johnson. Nick Swisher opened with a ground-rule double but the run did not score. Ibanez struck out swinging, Ichiro grounded into a force play, stole second and Russell Martin stranded runners at second and third by striking out.
That ended the Yankees’ 10th game in this stretch decided by three runs or less. Six have been one-run games and the last three have seen the opposing team score the go-ahead run in the seventh or later.
“It’s been hard,” Chavez said. “It is close ballgames and our offense has kind of been sputtering a little bit. We seem to do some things every once in a while, but not real consistently.”
“I think you’d probably be more concerned if you were getting pounded,” Girardi said. “We’ve had a chance to win a lot of those eight of 11 games. If you get yourself in enough of those opportunities, you’re going to start to win those games. I think we’re playing decent baseball and we’re pitching well.”
Of course at that point in the eighth, the Yankees could have been going for tack-on runs that would have avoided the bottom of the ninth.
Instead, it was the Orioles who added runs when they scored twice in the seventh as Nick Markakis doubled off Boone Logan and scored on J.J. Hardy’s single off David Phelps.
Phelps is the man that some Yankee fans are clamoring for to replace Freddy Garcia but that likely won’t happen if Garcia continues to do what most teams ask of their fifth starter — keep them in the game.
Though he tied a season high by allowing nine hits, he only gave up three runs in six innings because he was able to hold the Orioles to one hit in eight plate appearances with men on base.
It was what the Yankees were unable to do offensively with the exception of the three home runs. They struck out eight times against Gonzalez, with Teixeira striking out three times and Granderson fanning twice.
Granderson and Teixeira were responsible for the Yankees’ biggest strikeouts against Gonzalez. Gonzalez got them out after Jeter opened the sixth with a base hit, but Granderson chased a full count changeup and Teixeira looked at a slider.
“It is concerning, but no one is going to feel sorry for us,” Girardi said. “We have guys that are capable of getting the job done. That’s what you have to do. We’ve been able to overcome a lot of things up until this point and we just have to continue to do it, that’s all.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.