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DETROIT — DJ LeMahieu isn’t worried, but he and the Yankees know this cannot continue. The Bombers continued to struggle at the plate Saturday as they dropped their second straight game to the Tigers.
The Yankees managed just three hits in the 6-1 loss at Comerica Park.
“Bottom line is we got to be better, we got to get better,” Aaron Boone said after watching his team go down quietly. “If we’re going to be the team we expect to be, a lot of that is built around what we expect to be offensively, and there’s no question that has to improve.”
The Yankees (29-23) lost four of their last five and Saturday the Tigers (21-31) clinched the three-game series, the second straight the Yankees have lost.
The Bombers averaged under three runs a game over the last 10. They struck out a dozen times Saturday and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Excellent pitching got them through the last few weeks, but with one injury the Yankees pitching depth started to show cracks.
With Corey Kluber on the injured list and expected to miss at least two months with a shoulder injury, Deivi Garcia was the emergency spot starter Saturday. He lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing five runs, four earned, on five hits. The 22-year-old walked one and struck out three. Sunday, the Yankees will push youngster Michael King into a spot start.
But the Yankees weren’t built to win on dominant pitching beyond Gerrit Cole. They were built to score runs.
Saturday, Gleyber Torres led off the second with a single. The Yankees loaded the bases, but only scored one run.
“When you do get a good count or a good situation, or we’re getting a mistake pitch, we got to take advantage of it,” the Yankees manager said.
Boone’s hands are tied somewhat by injuries and roster construction. Giancarlo Stanton (left quad) and Gio Urshela (knee) were out of the lineup Saturday to try and maintain their health. Aaron Hicks (wrist) is out for the season. Struggling 37-year-old Brett Gardner is the only center fielder on the roster. Luke Voit (oblique) is on his second IL stint and will miss several weeks.
And the healthy guys in the lineup aside from Aaron Judge, who had an 0-for-4 on Saturday, aren’t doing damage right now.
“We have the guys that are capable of doing it. And we just got to all rally around and make sure we’re buttoned up and as prepared as we can be going in each and every day,” Boone said. “These are the guys that are gonna have to carry us to where we expect to go.”
Even LeMahieu, who has been the Yankees offensive catalyst the last two seasons, admitted he isn’t “clicking on all cylinders.” LeMahieu is hitting .235 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday, he went 1-for-4.
This season, he’s hitting .264/.350/.344 with three home runs and 14 RBI overall, which is far below the standard he set the first two seasons.
“I feel like we have the right mindset,” LeMahieu said. “I know we’ll all be clicking. Individually, some guys are doing a really good job with runners in scoring position, but collectively we’re not doing as well as we know we can.”
The Yankees, who went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Friday night’s loss, struggle to score without home runs. They went into Saturday’s game 24th in the league in OPS with runners in scoring position and hitting .244, one point below the league average in those spots.
“I think like anytime, offensively, you don’t mount much or you struggle to score runs, it always has that look of being flat,” Boone said. “I know these guys are preparing. I know how much they care. I know what they expected of themselves. So I know there’s a level of frustration that it’s not happening. So we just got to keep working at it.”
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally a milestone mark for self-evaluation for teams in baseball. After Saturday, the Yankees found themselves in third place in the American League East, 3.5 games behind the Rays.
But LeMahieu feels they are in the right spot, particularly for a team that hasn’t hit its potential yet.
“We had a tough first two weeks, three weeks, and since then I feel like we’ve played winning baseball and good enough to put ourselves where we want to be going into the end of the year,” LeMahieu said. “And I think that’ll keep improving. So, now we haven’t even played to how we’re capable of playing and we’re still in a pretty good spot right now.”