04/29/07 7:15 PM ET
Wang can't slow Red Sox in finale
Mientkiewicz, Jeter homers can't pull Yankees from last place
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Behind an up-and-down effort from starter Chien-Ming Wang, who suffered a cracked nail on his middle finger and is now questionable for his next start, the Yankees dropped a 7-4 decision to the Red Sox on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees have lost eight of nine games and, if their appearance is not one of disarray, it is definitely one of disappointment. Speculation concerning Joe Torre's job security will certainly carry into the club's series at Texas on Tuesday, prompting numerous Yankees players to defend the 66-year-old manager following the loss.
"It's not fair. In no way is he responsible for us performing," Derek Jeter said. "He's not hitting for us and he's not pitching for us. He puts the best players out there on the field, gives us an opportunity to win. We're just not doing the job. That's unfair and it should stop."
Torre said that he has not had any recent contact with Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner, who clearly will not be pleased with the weekend's results. Though many of his players defended Torre's status, the manager said that he was not concerned beyond getting the Yankees back into a winning situation.
"That's out of my control," Torre said. "I do what I can do. If that's what happens, that's what happens. It's certainly not the thing I'm thinking about when I'm on the bench."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman likes to prophesize that, because of New York's major media market, the Yankees actually play 162 one-game seasons. That's a wide view of the situation, but the Yankees are centered on the concept of winning, something they haven't done enough in the season's first month.
Due in large part to injuries, which particularly ravaged the starting pitching, and the resulting holes left by said absences, the Yankees wrapped up April with a 9-14 record, settling into last place in the American League East.
Some changes may be needed, Cashman acknowledged, saying that organizational meetings have taken place and will be continuing in order to right the situation. Cashman cancelled a scouting trip to the Dominican Republic scheduled for this week, but he has not yet decided if he'll accompany the team to Texas.
"We're not just going to sit and accept what we've been going through," Cashman said.
There are five months remaining to make up ground on the Red Sox, who defeated the Yankees five times in their first six meetings. While the Yankees are not pleased with their situation, the players appear willing to accept the axiom that baseball seasons are marathons, not sprints.
"We're a direct reflection of our manager," Jason Giambi said. "We've never really panicked. We've always been there. He did an incredible job last year with all the guys hurt and picking it up. A lot of it is shock. There's nothing you can really do. We're just not playing good baseball."
"It's frustrating that Joe is getting blamed for any of it," said Rodriguez. "We've got to play, we've got to pitch, we've got to field and we've got to hit. We haven't been doing it, combined."
The Yankees will endure at least one more injury concern before the month officially ends on Monday. Wang struggled with his command early in the game, leaving a pitch up to David Ortiz for a solo home run in the first inning, and he later complained of a cracked middle fingernail on his pitching hand that could place his next start in jeopardy.
Wang, making his second start since being activated from the disabled list, allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, walking three and striking out two. He also surrendered a two-run homer to Alex Cora in the fifth inning that tipped the score back in Boston's favor.
As he met with reporters after the game, Wang had the tip of his right middle finger bandaged. He said that his early pitches up in the zone could be attributed to not following through, but that his fingernail -- which cracked horizontally, a rarity -- affected him somewhat on the mound, though he expected to make his next start.
"We'll have to see how he does over the next few days," Cashman said. "I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see. Our trainers will guide me on that and they'll guide Joe."
The sum of the Yankees' offense against Red Sox starter Julian Tavarez played out to be a three-run homer by slumping Doug Mientkiewicz, who connected on his second round-tripper of the season to give the Yankees a lead in the third inning.
"He needed it, and we needed it at the time," Torre said. "But again, we couldn't build on it."
Tavarez otherwise kept the Yankees quiet, allowing three hits in five-plus innings while walking two and striking out two, and so did the Red Sox bullpen. Aside from Jeter's solo home run off Mike Timlin in the eighth, which extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the Yankees were silent as they fell 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox.
"I don't think the standings are an issue at this point," Torre said. "We all know we're going to start winning here sooner or later. Sooner is more appropriate."
The Red Sox continued to pile on, emphasizing the theme of a lost weekend for the Yankees.
Cora tripled to open the seventh facing reliever Scott Proctor and scored on Julio Lugo's sacrifice fly, and Manny Ramirez extended the lead with a two-run homer in the seventh off reliever Sean Henn, the 50th home run Ramirez has hit in his career against the Yankees.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon polished off New York in the ninth inning for his eighth save in as many opportunities. It left the Yankees looking for silver linings as they bid farewell to an April that proved most unkind.
"I'm encouraged by the way Wang threw the ball today," Rodriguez said. "[Andy] Pettitte, you can count on, and [Mike] Mussina's coming back. Once we get on a roll, I think we're going to be fine. The thing to start worrying about this month is winning two out of three, three out of four.
"Small bites and small steps."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.