NEW YORK — With a seven-game losing streak freshly on his back and his team no longer occupying first place, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was not in the endorsement mood. So when he was asked if Chris Carter was still his first baseman, Girardi didn’t exactly give it the old college try.
“That’s what we have,” Girardi said.
Imagine your boss saying that. How’s Jim doing in accounting?
“That’s what we have.”
Or your wife. How is Bob as a husband?
“That’s what we have.”
Girardi was in no mood to defend Carter, who is hitting .201 with eight home runs, 66 strikeouts in 159 at-bats and who made one crucial error Tuesday.
Carter isn’t the Yankees’ biggest problem, though. It’s the pitching. They don’t have enough of it, which is going to make outlasting the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East quite difficult unless they make some deals or perhaps bring up top prospect Chance Adams.
Boston’s lead is just a half-game, so it is nothing to fret over yet. However, if you believe the preseason prognostications about the Red Sox — “the Golden State Warriors of baseball,” according to the Yankees GM Brian Cashman this winter — are correct and that Boston’s roster is deeper, it is an ominous sign.
The Yankees are doing the opposite of what they had done up to about a week ago. They are finding a way to lose. On Tuesday, when they took their seventh straight loss, it was Tyler Clippard who imploded for three runs in the seventh in an 8-3 loss to the Mike Trout-less and .500 Los Angeles Angels.
“It is super frustrating,” Clippard said.
Girardi seemed to be considering removing Clippard from the seventh-inning role. He failed to get the ball to Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. With Adam Warren due back soon, Girardi might have Clippard figure himself out in lower-leverage situations.
Their pure power is something to behold. In the fifth, Judge did that thing where he doesn’t get all of the ball but hits it really high. Even going the opposite way, his pure strength is enough to lift the ball over the fence for his major league-best 24th homer.
Sanchez also has special power, so he matched Judge an inning later, going the opposite way for his 12th homer of the season. That tied the score before Clippard’s meltdown.
The problems that are emerging can’t be ignored. Michael Pineda was OK but not good enough, allowing three runs (one earned) in 5⅔ innings, as his defense — read the increasingly-unpopular-in-the-Bronx Carter — let him down.
By the time Clippard entered, the score was tied. Clippard faltered, and the Yankees no longer have the lead in the AL East, though Girardi said he believes.
“I don’t think the first 60 games were an accident,” Girardi said. “We played pretty well during those games. Every team goes through their down periods. That’s the bottom line. It can be for a lot of different reasons. I like that club in there.”
But it is not the offense that is the problem long term. It is the pitching — from Pineda not being good enough to Clippard being really bad. It is what Girardi has, which is not too good at the moment.