Clutch hits eluding Yanks at key spots
Tampa Bay (13-16) at New York (13-14), 7:05 p.m. ET
NEW YORK -- During their current four-game slide, the Yankees have seemingly found a new way to lose every night. In the Red Sox series earlier this week, poor starting pitching was the culprit. Against the Rays on Wednesday, it was another game lost in the late innings by a bullpen desperately searching for an identity.
But one theme has remained throughout: an overall offensive slump, particularly in clutch situations.New York has gone 4-for-32 with runners in scoring position these past four games and has left 31 men on base. On Wednesday, the lone bright spot was a three-run double by Mark Teixeira to tie the game in the eighth. But the Yankees left a man on third in both the ninth and 10th en route to a 4-3 defeat to the Rays. Teixeira's hit drove in the first Yankees runs not scored via the home run since the opening frame of Saturday's game against the Angels. With another matchup with Tampa Bay coming on Thursday, New York has one last chance to salvage this homestand before it starts a six-game road trip against division foes Baltimore and Toronto. "That's why we're not winning these games," Teixeira said. "We have a lot of guys who have been good all year not getting it done these last few days." Perhaps the best example of a slumping regular is second baseman Robinson Cano. After a 1-for-4 night on Wednesday, he is mired in a 1-for-16 skid, and he has seen his batting average dip from .378 to .333. For the player who may have been the Yankees' best hitter in April, Cano's cold stretch comes at an inopportune time. With Alex Rodriguez still rehabbing an injured right hip and Jorge Posada on the disabled list with a strained hamstring on Tuesday, the Bombers have been relying on Cano even more than usual. It appears Cano has been suffering from poor plate discipline and pitch selection -- problems that plagued him before in his career, but they were absent during his scorching first month this season. In his first three at-bats on Wednesday, he saw five total pitches from Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine, including a first-pitch double play in the second inning. Cano had a chance to deliver a key hit in the fourth inning. With the tying run at third and the go-ahead run on second, he lazily fisted a 1-0 pitch that was easily corralled by left fielder Carl Crawford. "When we were cruising along, we were driving in those big runs," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "But, hey, sometimes that happens." Cano finally showed some life his final time up in the ninth inning, perhaps signifying a change in fortune. With the game tied at 3, he laced a Brian Shouse pitch into right-center field and reached first to represent the winning run. He was ultimately stranded at third when Jose Molina flied out to send the game into extra innings. For Cano, like the rest of the Yankees on Wednesday, his hit was too little, too late. One frame later, New York continued its slumping ways when Teixeira was unable to drive in the tying run from third with one out. And just like that, the goodwill from his clutch double earlier in the night was washed away by a scuffling lineup and a losing streak. "It seems like each day we had an opportunity to win the next game, and we weren't able to do it," manager Joe Girardi said. "It just kind of seems we're not getting that huge hit when we need to get it." Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-1, 3.82 ERA)
Most of the damage to Pettitte's line -- three of the six runs -- took place after he left last Friday's game against the Angels. But Pettitte did allow nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings, his first poor start of the season. His chance for redemption will come against the Rays, a team he held to three runs in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision last month. Last year against the eventual American League champions, Pettitte was 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts. TB: RHP Jeff Niemann (2-3, 5.68 ERA)
Making his first career appearance against the Red Sox on Saturday, Niemann struggled through just three innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits while striking out three and walking three. After giving up five runs in his first inning of the season, the 26-year-old came into that start with a 2.53 ERA since. But Niemann put Tampa Bay out of it early, when he gave up two runs to Boston in the first, then three in the second. Through his three frames, Niemann was forced into throwing 76 pitches -- 46 for strikes. On Thursday, he'll be facing the Yankees for the first time. Tidbits
Starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang will throw 80 pitches on Thursday in an extended spring game in Tampa, Fla. ... Wednesday marked the first time that New York did not hit a home run at the new Yankee Stadium. ... After winning his first two starts, A.J. Burnett recorded his fourth consecutive no-decision on Wednesday. Tickets
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Friday: Yankees (CC Sabathia, 1-3, 4.85) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 2-2, 5.05), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 1-1, 2.70) at Orioles (Adam Eaton, 1-3, 7.18), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 1-1, 3.77) at Orioles (Koji Uehara, 2-3, 4.42), 1:35 p.m. ET
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.