Night to forget in Pittsburgh
Rasner, bullpen allow 19 hits in opening loss to Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- The figurative glass on Joe Girardi's desk has been, to this point, perpetually half-full, as the Yankees manager has preferred an optimistic view of his club's up-and-down maiden campaign.
Some of that sunshine spilled in a deflating 12-5 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday. An agitated Girardi repeatedly said the Yankees "stunk" and promised the point had been made clear to his players, who fell for the third time in four games.
Girardi cares little for concealing emotions, particularly after losses, and Tuesday's defeat was one of the uglier examples. Darrell Rasner was roughed up for seven runs in five innings, the bullpen couldn't keep the game close and the offense wasted numerous opportunities, going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"The whole game bothered me," Girardi said. "We stunk. That's the bottom line. We stunk."
The language may have been caustic for Girardi's normal persona, but Derek Jeter -- for one -- said that he couldn't be surprised, not after the Yankees had been "killed" in front of a sellout crowd of 38,867, fired up for the Bombers' first Pittsburgh appearance since the 1960 World Series.
"What other adjective can you use?" Jeter said. "We didn't play well."
Rasner (4-5) was in trouble early and often. The right-hander struggled with his control once again, setting a new season high in runs allowed, serving up a two-run homer to Jose Bautista in the fourth inning and a solo shot to Ryan Doumit in the fifth.
"I wasn't making the pitches when I needed to make them," Rasner said. "Everything was up, and they hit the ball hard every time it was up."
Rasner surrendered 10 hits while also throwing two wild pitches, a shaky outing that continued his recent string of struggles. The 27-year-old has allowed 15 earned runs over his past three starts, spanning 13 2/3 innings, for a 9.87 ERA, and has posted just one victory in his past six outings.
"When they get too much of the plate and they get the ball up, they're going to get hit," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line, no matter who you are. He just had some of the balls get too much of the plate."
Rasner believes the problem is not mechanical and said the best thing he could do for his confidence is to wipe the slate clean following this start -- a good idea, except that it is the second time in three starts Rasner has echoed those thoughts, flashing back to a June 11 effort at Oakland, where he was roughed up for six runs.
Girardi said Rasner will "straighten it out," and there are no plans to change the rotation. That puts Rasner in line to start on Sunday against the Mets at Shea Stadium, where his season ended last year in abbreviated fashion.
"I just need to get my pitches down and get on top of the ball," Rasner said. "Maybe guys are a little comfortable in there against me and maybe I need to pitch inside a little more. I think it's an easy fix."
Perhaps the easiest fix would be support, the type that Rasner drew to the tune of 29 runs in his four victories, an average of 7.25 per game. Only Bobby Abreu's two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning would make the final outcome a bit more respectable, as the Yankees (41-36) repeatedly let Tom Gorzelanny off the hook.
Gorzelanny (6-6) wasn't nearly as impressive as his "quality-start" line of three runs over six innings would indicate. The left-hander threw just 47 of 99 pitches for strikes and walked five -- including the opposing pitcher, Rasner, twice -- but was able to prevent all five from scoring.
"It's one thing when you lose, 2-1, and a guy shuts you down offensively," Girardi said. "We had a lot of opportunities, and our defense didn't help us tonight. Our pitching didn't help us, hitting with runners in scoring position didn't help us. There were a lot of factors that went into this game."
"[Gorzelanny] gave us an opportunity to do some damage and we let him get away," Alex Rodriguez said. "That's what makes this more frustrating."
What little the Yankees did manage against Gorzelanny wasn't nearly enough; Abreu hit into an inning-ending double play to strand two in the third, and Melky Cabrera rolled into a fielder's choice to leave the bags loaded in the fourth.
"Having the opportunities is good, but capitalizing on the opportunities is even more important," Rodriguez said. "I like keeping giving guys a chance to have good at-bats and getting up there. I think in the long haul we're going to get the big hits."
With the game teetering on the edge of a blowout after Rasner soaked up five innings for the bullpen, long reliever LaTroy Hawkins wasn't able to keep it close. The Pirates (37-40) scored twice in the sixth off Hawkins and added three more in the seventh, with one of the runs charged to Edwar Ramirez.
While most showered and hit the streets hoping to forget what happened on Tuesday, one Yankee lingered to soak in the ambiance -- at least, the parts of it he could enjoy.
Called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, outfielder Justin Christian had a memorable Major League debut, logging his first big league hit with a fourth-inning single. Christian also collected his first RBIs when he drove in two with a fifth inning double off Gorzelanny, closing the Yankees' deficit to four runs.
Christian -- promoted to play in New York's outfield for games against the National League with both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui ailing -- also committed an error when he bobbled Freddy Sanchez's run-scoring single in the first inning.
"It kind of hit me a little bit, seeing the crowd," Christian said. "I felt relieved. It was a weird sensation. The hard work I put in through the Minor Leagues, it's kind of weird being here in the Major Leagues. It sunk in quick and it ended quick."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.