Yankees Postgame Notebook: Yanks near elimination after shutout loss to Rays

New York's playoff hopes pushed to brink after 7-0 loss to Rays
09/24/2013 11:58 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday night's loss to the Rays.(AP)
Tuesday was, in and of itself, seemingly a microcosm of what the 2013 Yankees season has seemed to be about: squandered opportunities and bad breaks.

The Yankees' 7-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, combined with Cleveland's 5-4 win - on a walk-off homer by, somewhat ironically, Jason Giambi - that means that the elimination number for the Bombers is one; with one more loss and/or one more win for both the Rays and Indians, the Yankees will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008 and just the second time in the Wild Card era.

Yogi Berra said 'it ain't over 'til it's over,' but for the 2013 Yankees, those closing credits are now a heartbeat away.

"It's definitely hard, because you work for a long time to put yourself in a good spot to get into the playoffs; right now, we need a ton of help and we need to win every game, and that's the hard part because that's what you go through," manager Joe Girardi said after the loss. "I'm never of the belief that you can't do more, and that's me and everyone in that room, so I don't ever like to give into those thoughts (that this is who we are)."

Cleveland's win was the bad break, but the squandered opportunities spectrum comes from the fact that despite just four hits, the team had 11 baserunners total - and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position en route to stranding all 11.

"It's frustrating. Any time you put this uniform on, you expect to go out and produce and win, and when you're not doing it, it's frustrating," Vernon Wells said. "There's been so many guys in this uniform, and to a man, they've gone out and done everything they could on the field to help us win games."

Meanwhile, after a rough first inning that saw him down 2-0 before recording an out, Hiroki Kuroda settled down and once again gutted out 5.2 innings in what could be his final start as a Yankee. A lead-off homer by Matt Joyce, a single by Wil Myers, and a double by David DeJesus put him in a quick hole, adding to a rough season that has seen the first inning be his Achilles heel over time.

"He's not locating; his split was up, and the slider that Joyce hit was a spinner down the middle," Girardi said. It seems like it's been taking him a little time to find his stuff, but then after the first, he was pretty good and battled pretty well until he got in a little trouble in the sixth."

"I think all my pitches were not sharp," Kuroda said through his interpreter. "The tendencies have been that I give up runs in the early innings, and the third pitch home run tonight gave them the momentum."

Kuroda said he isn't sure why the first inning has been his Achilles heel - saying "personally, I don't really feel that different, but at this stage, I can't figure out why" - but Girardi offered a surmisal.

"It's always hard to attribute; his stuff just has not been as crisp, his sinker has been a little flatter, and his slider has been okay at times but not as consistent," the skipper said.

On this night, Kuroda's first out was an Evan Longoria sac fly that made it 3-0, but counting that, he retired 15 of the final 16 batters in the first five innings, the only blemish coming courtesy of a throwing error by Eduardo Nunez in the third.

By then, though, it was too little, too late, as the Yankees couldn't take advantage of a wild Matt Moore and left multiple runners on in four of the first five innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the third, and the Tampa bullpen retired 11 of the 13 men they faced to close it out.

"It's frustrating, because we had opportunities; we had six or seven walks in the first few innings and we couldn't put any hits up there," Girardi said. "We had a couple chances but weren't able to score…runs have been tough for us lately."

And thus, now the Yankees are just one step away from going home in October.

"It's not a good feeling. It hurts," Girardi said. "This all started February 15 or whenever it was, and we put ourselves in a good position after a month, then we struggled, then we put ourselves in a good position 10 days ago and now we've struggled again. It's a tough schedule that you go through."

After 157 games and 56 players used, Girardi was asked if maybe it's all just a function of being "tired," but he called that an excuse rather than a scapegoat.

"It's interesting, the word tired. When you're going well and winning games, guys aren't tired. But when you aren't scoring runs and you're losing games, all of a sudden that word comes up a lot," Girardi said. "To me, it's an excuse. I haven't forgotten what it's like to play and get beat up, but you have to find a way; that's your job."

"This is what you play the whole season for is opportunities like this, and everything we've gone through as a team, there's no time to be tired," Wells added.

Girardi was also asked if maybe the struggles of the rotation of late have carried over to the whole team, but the skipper didn't want to pin have had an effect on the team, but he dismissed putting the onus on just one facet of the team.

"I don't think it's fair to put it on three guys; you could say if we swung the bats better we'd be in better shape, or if we played better defense we'd be in better shape," he said. "These guys carried us the first four months of the season; they're not going to be perfect, and in a time where we needed to score some more runs, we haven't been able to do it."

Kuroda, for his credit, would take at least some of that responsibility on himself.

"I'm really disappointed with the fact that I'm not contributing to the team winning," he said.

As it stands, the Yankees have gone 10-12 in September and unlucky loss No. 13 will be the one that eliminates them from postseason contention, and Girardi expressed frustration with how the team that has gone through so much hasn't been able to catch a break over the last three weeks.

"It's been different things at different times," the skipper said. "The Boston series, we didn't pitch well. We played well in Baltimore, but the next Boston series, we pitched better but didn't swing the bats. We didn't swing the bats in Toronto, and we lost a game Sunday 2-1 where we had some opportunities to take the lead and didn't. I think it's been a combination of everything."

With that, we'll give the last word to Wells, who uttered this quote after admitting that losing three of four to Boston put the team in a funk they've yet to recover from:

"That's part of this game, but I think there's enough heart in this clubhouse to finish this thing out the right way."

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