The once-proud and once-mighty New York Yankees are searching for answers.
As they fall further and further behind in the playoff chase, the Yankees look to bounce back from another difficult loss as they continue a three-game home series against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
New York (64-58) is in jeopardy of having its string of 13 straight appearances in the playoffs come to an end. The Yankees have lost eight of 11 games to fall 10 1/2 games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East race and seven games behind Boston, the wild-card leader.
They made several changes before a disheartening 4-3 loss to Kansas City (55-67) on Friday. Slumping center fielder Melky Cabrera was demoted to the minors, Richie Sexson was designated for assignment and outfielder Brett Gardner was installed in Cabrera’s spot in the lineup after he was one of three players brought up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“We’re doing some tweaking,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “These are baseball decisions. The shakeup’s got to come from the guys that are expected to perform. Melky Cabrera batting ninth in our lineup is not supposed to be a difference-maker in this club either way. He was supposed to be able to slide right in while everybody else did their job.”
New York fell to 3-5 against Kansas City on Friday after closer Mariano Rivera’s first wild pitch of the season allowed Esteban German to score the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. The Yankees had pinch-runner Justin Christian picked off in the bottom half, but still loaded the bases before Jason Giambi flied out to end the game.
“We didn’t execute. Because we didn’t execute, we didn’t win,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “At some point you have to start executing if you want to play in October.”
In the last 11 games since Aug. 4, New York has scored 45 runs—only Toronto has scored fewer in that stretch among AL teams. Reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez is 8-for-39 (.205) in that span with five RBIs.
Both teams will start right-handers Saturday.
Sidney Ponson (7-3, 4.27 ERA) will make his ninth start of the year with New York. Ponson, who began the season with Texas, is 3-2 with a 4.72 ERA with the Yankees.
He allowed four runs over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Monday.
Ponson is 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA over his last six starts against the Royals. He beat them on May 1 when he was pitching for Texas by allowing one run over eight innings in a 2-1 victory in which he outpitched Zack Greinke, who suffered his first loss after a 3-0 start.
Greinke (9-8, 4.09) will oppose Ponson again Saturday. This will his third start of the season against the Yankees—he’s 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA.
The 24-year-old failed in a bid to win his third straight start last Saturday against Minnesota when he yielded six runs over five-plus innings in a 7-3 loss.