In a post-script to my wrap-up of Wednesday afternoon's walk-off win against the Tampa Bay Rays, I expressed concern about the Yankees' continued lack of offense, even through their recent four-game winning streak:
While the Yankees have won four games in a row, they have only averaged 3.5 runs scored over those four games and 3.63 runs per game over their last 11 contests. Setting aside their 18-run outburst against the Rangers a week ago, they've averaged 2.4 runs per game in ten of their last 11 games. Take out their two game-winning runs in extra innings, and they've scored just 2.2 runs per game during regulation in those ten games.
All of those numbers have gone down as a result of another weak showing last night, this one against Paul Maholm and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Bucs got on the board first when ninth-place hitter Jack Wilson led of the third inning by doubling off Mike Mussina and was later plated by a Freddy Sanchez single. Mussina would later single himself with two outs in the fifth inning and be moved to second by a Derek Jeter single before being stranded by a Bobby Abreu strikeout. Moose's four-year-old son told him he'd hit better if he cuffed his pants high, and Mussina obliged on both accounts, but as always seems to be the case, the inning after the pitcher ran the bases, he gave up another run, though this one was hardly his fault.
In the bottom of the fifth, Wilson again led off with a hit. Nate McLouth then hit a double-play ball to second, but Derek Jeter's relay throw tailed down and up the line, tipping off first baseman Jorge Posada's outstretched glove to allow McLouth to reach safely. Posada was playing first in order to get his bat in the lineup against a lefty in a National League park (he went 1 for 4) while also allowing Mussina to pitch to his personal catcher, Jose Molina (Mussina allowed two runs in six innings). Posada didn't make the most impressive stretch for the ball, which a more experienced infielder likely would have come up with. Still, a better throw from Jeter, who was in no way threatened by the charging baserunner, would have avoided that problem. Two pitches later, McLouth stole second and moved to third when Jose Molina's throw skipped into center field. On the next pitch, Freddy Sanchez lifted a sac fly to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees, meanwhile, had nothing going against Maholm. Derek Jeter led off the game with a single and the Yankees had men on the corners with two outs in the first, but Robinson Cano struck out on four pitches. Bobby Abreu walked and stole second with two outs in the third, but Alex Rodriguez flew out to strand him. Mussina and Jeter singled with two outs in the fifth, but Abreu struck out on three pitches.
That was it until the Yankees finally broke through, again with two outs, in the seventh. Justin Christian and pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit singled. Derek Jeter took a 2-2 pitch off the left foot to load the bases, and Wednesday's hero Bobby Abreu tied the game with a single to right that plated Christian and Betemit. Alex Rodriguez ground out to end the inning, but the two-out rally seemed to signal a shift in the game.
Jose Veras shifted it back with just six pitches. Again Jack Wilson led off the inning by reaching base, this time walking on five pitches (though ball four looked like strike two). Nate McLouth followed by bunting a ball foul and then, like Carlos Peña the day before, crushing a home run to right field on a pitch in on his hands.
Christian drew a full-count walk against Pirates closer Damaso Marte in the ninth to bring Jason Giambi to the plate representing the tying run, but Giambi flew out at the end of a strong seven-pitch battle and Derek Jeter grounded out weakly to end the game and give the Pirates both a 4-2 win and a 2-1 series victory.
Tonight, the Yankees face Roy Halladay. Here's hoping Joba Chamberlain has no-hit stuff. He may need it.