MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees

Running Base: Yankees drop a couple close calls

The past two nights at the Stadium in the Bronx couldn’t have gone much worse for the Yankees. With the lineup already ailing with Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira sidelined, the Yankees learned before Tuesday’s game that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will miss the rest of the regular season with elbow inflammation. Then the club went out and lost a 2-1 game on a Chris Davis solo shot in the ninth in a game where Dellin Betances wasn’t used because he threw a combined 57 pitches while appearing in back-to-back victories Sunday and Monday. Chasen Shreve was victimized by Davis, who has 41 home runs on the season.

Wednesday night, it was Adam Warren, still pitching out of the bullpen, who was victimized by a home run late in the contest while Betances wasn’t used yet again. In the eighth inning, former Yankee Steve Pearce drilled one deep to left field giving the fourth-place Orioles another late lead for their lights out closer Zach Britton to preserve. Warren, however, can’t be blamed for this loss because the game never should’ve reached that point.

In the fifth inning, the Yankees led 3-1, but the Orioles had loaded the bases with two men out. Jonathan Schoop hit into a fielder’s choice that would have ended the inning with no damage done, but a missed catch error by Stephen Drew allowed two runs to score. Drew also botched a perfect double play ground ball in the first inning and the Orioles would score first on a two out RBI single to right field by Davis. Starter CC Sabathia officially gave up one earned run in his 4 2/3 innings, but really all three of the runs that came across were Drew’s fault. Just a brutal night in the field for the second baseman.

It was a bad time for the Yankees to drop back-to-back games at home to a floundering Orioles team as the Blue Jays make their way to the Bronx for a four-game series starting Thursday. The Blue Jays also lost to the Red Sox Wednesday night, but the Yankees of course weren’t able to make up any ground as they still trail Toronto by 1.5 games in the AL East.

It goes to show just how important every game and every decision is this time of year. After getting out to a 12-1 lead in Boston last week, the Yankees bullpen collapsed and Joe Girardi decided to bring Betances into a six-run game with the bases loaded. Andrew Miller was also used in the eventual 13-8 victory. I’m not saying Girardi should go all Matt Williams on everybody and stay away from his best relievers until he absolutely has to use them, but they really could’ve used Betances in there in these tight games the past two nights and it’s worth noting he was used to protect leads of three runs or more in two of his last three outings.

This takes us back to the trade deadline where the Yankees didn’t make a move to bolster the bullpen or the lineup, which it seems like they really could’ve used. As other BP Bronx writers have said this week, it’s great that the Yankees have good young players in their system and some depth. New York wouldn’t still be in this position without the performances of Luis Severino (2.04 ERA in six starts) or Greg Bird (112 wRC+ in 94 plate appearances) over the past few weeks, which is wild because nobody should expect rookies to step into a pennant race and immediately flourish. Each has done a remarkable job and you could even say that as a whole this Yankees team has overachieved, which only makes it even more maddening that the “big” acquisition they made at the trade deadline turned out to be Dustin Ackley.

Every decision matters this time of year, but even more than Girardi’s usage of his best reliever is the problem of finding offense with Teixeira out and Gardner banged up. In 11 games since sitting out with a hip injury, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .186/.255/.279 with one home run, three walks, and 10 strikeouts. That won’t cut the mustard. At least Alex Rodriguez is heating up again as he has four home runs in his last six games.

It doesn’t get any easier tonight as (if it doesn’t rain) the Yankees will square off with Blue Jays ace David Price in the Bronx. The Yankees have gotten to Price a few times in the past two years, most notably two eight-run shellackings while he was with Detroit (both were at Comerica Park). Gardner might even be in the starting lineup after pinch-hitting last night. New York hopes his return can help boost what has been a good, but inconsistent offense this year. If they could pick a series to breakout in, this would be the one.

(Photo: Andy Marlin-USA Today Sports)

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