The meaning of the Yankees' 18-inning loss

Ezra Shaw

Thursday, as you probably heard, the Yankees lost to the Athletics in 18 innings, with the A's finally plating the decisive run after a couple of hits of Mariano Rivera. A lot happened before then, though, as ESPN.com's Wallace Matthews points out:

But that is not where the game was really lost, not by a longshot.

It was lost in the third inning, when catcher Chris Stewart tagged a runner at home with an empty glove, and it was lost in the sixth, when the Yankees had a runner at second with one out and couldn't get him home, and it was lost again in the 11th inning, when they loaded the bases and couldn't score, and again in the 12th and the 13th and the 14th, when the same sickening scenario played out over and over again, like a horror movie on an endless loop.

Most of all, the game was lost because of numbers like this: Mark Teixeira, 0-for-5 and four runners left stranded; Travis Hafner, 0-for-8 and seven runners left stranded; Vernon Wells, 0-for-8 with three strikeouts, and Kevin Youkilis, 0-for-7 with three strikeouts, a double play and five runners left stranded.

In fact, Teixeira, Hafner, Youkilis and Wells, the heart of the Yankees' batting order, were a combined 0-for-28 and struck out 12 times.

"That's a no-hitter in itself," Teixeira said ruefully. "That's not good."

An amusing statistical oddity, no doubt. But no more, in the grand scheme of things, than that.

And I'm sure that someone, somewhere, was blaming the Yankees' loss on Joe Girardi's decision to finally use Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation. "See! He can't pitch unless the Yankees have a lead of one, two, or three runs. In the ninth inning or later!"

Whatever. Rivera gave up a couple of broken-bat flares that just happened to fall in. That he, of all people-pitchers, would be the one who finally gave up the game-winning hit after all those innings was an oddity. But it was no more than that.

What's more than an oddity is Vernon Wells' long slump. Matthews: "Wells, who started out so wonderfully, hitting .300 with six home runs in April, is 4-for-42 this month (.095), and every one of his hits have been singles. His batting average is down to .229."

A friend of mine, who is usually quite canny about these things, told me in May that Wells made an adjustment this spring, and so the hard-hitting version we saw in April might stay with us for a while. As it turns out, though, not so much. His stats this season are almost exactly as terrible as they were in both 2011 and '12. And I'm guessing the Yankees won't be so tolerant as the Angels were, considering the Yankees aren't paying full freight on Wells' generous contract.

Of course Wells isn't the only struggling Yankee. Even Cano's not really hitting, and has just six RBI this month.

Of course Cano's going to hit. So will ... Actually, that's the hard thing to figure, exactly. Travis Hafner came cheap this season for a reason. Kevin Youkilis was just so-so last season. Ichiro seems just about finished. Teixeira's going to hit better than he's been hitting, but he's got a .249/.345/.480 line since Opening Day of 2010.

The Yankees have outscored their opponents by 10 runs this season. They play in a strong division, which means they're probably better than their run differential. They play in a strong division, which means their path to the postseason is a bit more difficult than it might be.

Everybody says the Yankees need to get Derek Jeter back in the lineup. That's probably true. But it's beginning to seem that the Yankees need a lot of other things to go well, too.

For much more about the Yankees, please visit SB Nation's Pinstriped Bible.

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