A team used to pounding opponents into oblivion suddenly can’t hit, pitch or field. What’s the deal with the New York Yankees?
“Whenever a club goes bad, it will look like one of two things: Somebody’s not trying, or they’re pressing,” interim manager Don Zimmer said Sunday after the Yankees’ losing streak hit four games with a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that isn’t trying right now,” Zimmer said.
Maybe it’s just bad karma, then. The Yankees were 7-1 when Darryl Strawberry was arrested Wednesday night. They’re 0-4 since.
“We all feel bad about Straw,” Zimmer said. “But the game goes on.”
A week earlier, New York outscored the Tigers 28-5 in three games at Yankee Stadium.
But Detroit bounced back to outscore the Yankees 16-3, sweeping them in a three-game series at Tiger Stadium for the first time since the end of the 1988 season. New York was not held to three runs in any three-game span last year.
“Last year has nothing to do with this year,” said Derek Jeter, whose .457 average defies the team’s slump. “I know that’s the way fans are thinking. That’s the way the reporters are, too. But, I’ll say it over and over: Last year was last year.
“Sure, we expect to win. We expect to win every time out. But it’s not going to happen.”
The sweep in Detroit was the Yankees’ first since being swept in three straight at Philadelphia in September 1997. But the four-game skid matches the longest of the wondrous 1998 season when they won a record 114 games.
“When you get good pitching and drive in some runs, you win games,” said Paul O’Neill, hitless in his last 16 at-bats after going 0-for-11 at Tiger Stadium. “We’re going to get back into it.”
The fewest runs the Yankees scored in any three-game span last year was six, which came when they lost their first three games of the season.
“Sure, we expect to score more runs,” Jeter said. “We always do. But it’s not going to happen.”
The Yankees made five errors against Detroit, after committing just three in their first nine games.
“It’s one thing, if you’re a major league player, to miss a cutoff man or something,” Zimmer said. “I have never criticized an error. I’ve made them myself. Nobody wants to make them, but players are human.”
Down the hall, the Tigers were almost as puzzled as the World Series champs.
“If you would have asked who we would have swept — Minnesota or the Yankees — I would have said Minnesota,” right-hander Doug Brocail said. “It’s not arguable by anybody. The Yankees are 10 times the team. They have more talent. They have more pitching.”
The Yankees were off Monday and return to Yankee Stadium for a two-game series with Texas on Tuesday night.
“I think Roger Clemens summed it up best the other night,” Zimmer said. “He said he’ll have two or three lousy games every year. Hopefully, this is the worst we’ll play.”