Girardi challenges Yanks to improve performance

Girardi challenges Yanks to improve performance

DENVER -- This had all the makings of a soft spot on the Yankees' schedule, kicking off a stretch of games against teams under .500 in which they could fatten up their record. It turns out, the Rockies might have been thinking the same thing.

Ivan Nova was thumped for five runs and a season-high 10 hits as the Yankees suffered a 6-3 loss on Wednesday at Coors Field, completing a two-game sweep. Manager Joe Girardi had cautioned against underestimating the Rockies and Twins, whom New York is seeing for 11 straight games, and the results of this series showed why.

"I don't care who you're playing. If you don't play well, you're going to get your butts beat," Girardi said. "We didn't pitch well here, that's the bottom line. Everyone wants to talk about the schedule. If you start thinking that, you're just going to go out and throw your gloves out there, that ain't going to happen. Not in this league."

Though the Yanks seemed to match up well on paper, their pitching surrendered 19 runs in the series, with the Rockies introducing their version of arena baseball in Tuesday's 13-10 victory while withstanding a single-filled eighth-inning rally.

Wednesday's loss was the Yanks' fourth straight, dropping their record to 31-34 and wiping away the positive vibes from a five-game winning streak that preceded the skid. Chase Headley said that he has no explanation for the seesaw nature of the Yanks' season thus far.

"I couldn't tell you; just how it's gone," Headley said. "It was a long stretch before [Monday's] off-day and we did a pretty good job of getting through that. We lost a couple games here -- they beat us. We've got to find a way to get it going in Minnesota."

A couple of shaky starting-pitching performances from Nathan Eovaldi and Nova punctuated the series against the Rockies, with a leaky bullpen also looming large on Tuesday. The relief work was better on Wednesday, but the Yanks fielded a thin lineup that was without both Carlos Beltran (left knee) and Alex Rodriguez, who will return to DH duty on Thursday.

"We just need to get some timely hitting here and there and get everything back on track," catcher Austin Romine said. "We'll start winning some games."

If not, this could be a last stand for the Yankees, who have been mentioned as prime candidates to sell off talent if their hopes of contending have faded by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Playoff contenders like the Cubs and Nationals are already known to be sniffing around the power bullpen tandem of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, while Beltran and outfielder Brett Gardner might also be dangled should the 2016 Yanks fail to distinguish themselves in the near future.

"We started playing better at home; we've got to start playing better on the road, too," Girardi said. "Everyone has talked about an important two weeks. This is an important month. We can't keep having months where we're not making up ground. If you're losing ground, it's going to be tough to catch up. These are months that we have to play better than the teams that are in front of us."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.