Yanks stumble to open crucial homestand

New York needs to make up ground or could end up sellers at Trade Deadline

Yanks stumble to open crucial homestand

NEW YORK -- The final six outs were recorded as quietly as the first 14 had been, with the top two-thirds of the Yankees' order making a succession of hard right turns back to the dugout in the eighth and ninth innings.

A short burst of sixth-inning productivity proved to be the outlier of the Yanks' 5-3 loss to the Red Sox on Friday, and as they open a crucial 10-game stretch that could determine if they classify themselves buyers or sellers before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, it was hardly their desired opening statement.

"It's one game," Carlos Beltran said. "Right now, we have to focus on winning series, especially against teams that are in our division. We play Boston; the next team will be Baltimore, four games here. They are huge, so we have to get it done."

Reassembling following the All-Star break, it didn't seem to be the best match for the Yankees' skill set to take on knuckleballer Steven Wright, whose dancing offerings kept the Bronx Bombers off the bases until Alex Rodriguez's infield single with two outs in the fifth inning.

A-Rod gets Yanks' first hit

As Rodriguez correctly pointed out, Wright has enjoyed plenty of success around the American League this year, not just against the Yankees. But too many pitchers have had their way with New York's inconsistent lineup, which is why they find themselves in their current situation.

"I thought we had some good swings, some good approaches," Rodriguez said. "That one inning, we scored three runs. With a guy like that, you're probably just going to get one crack at it. We had just that one."

Friday's loss dipped the Yankees a game below .500 yet again, at 44-45. They will need to go 43-30 (.589) over their remaining 73 games just to match last year's win total of 87, which got them to the AL Wild Card Game against the Astros.

That figures to be a tall order for a club that has not been two games over .500 since April 12 and is under the .500 mark after the All-Star break for the first time since 1995; the Yankees' next trip to the break-even mark will be the ninth of the season. Twenty-two of their next 25 games are against clubs with records currently over .500.

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman all say that it is a foreign concept to hear the Yankees talked about as possible Trade Deadline sellers. Even so, Girardi said that he understands the urgency of the situation.

"Of course there is," Girardi said. "We've talked about it. We talk about it in here. We've talked about it with the group in there. Of course there is [urgency], because you start to run out of days."

Girardi offered a lukewarm vote of confidence in Friday's struggling starter, Michael Pineda, saying, "It's who we have, so he has to get it done," and Girardi certainly recognizes the scarcity of in-house reinforcements. Cashman has been working the phones in what has thus far proved to be a fruitless pursuit of starting pitchers and middle relievers.

Cashman and Girardi also recognize that there is little maneuverability with their veteran-laden lineup, one that banked heavily on getting about 60 homers and 200 RBIs out of the duo of Mark Teixeira and A-Rod. Once again, it will be up to the players in the room to perform up to expectations, in what has become a very real race against the calendar.

"I think we have to make up ground or win games, or we're going to be in a pretty tough position," Girardi said.

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.