No. 600 looming, A-Rod tries to 'think small'
Stretch without home run extends to 51 plate appearances
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez stood in front of his locker on Tuesday afternoon, glancing at the clubhouse television as two analysts discussed his pursuit of 600 career homers. The on-air dialogue triggered a smile from the Yankees' third baseman.
But that smile quickly faded into a frown on Tuesday night, when Rodriguez finished 0-for-3 and extended his hitless streak to 17 at-bats and homerless drought to 12 games in the Yankees' 8-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
"Right now, he's in a funk," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "It's easy for me to sit up here and say, 'This is what you should do,' but none of us have ever been in Alex's shoes and none of us have ever been at 599 homers, so none of us know how it feels. You can say all the right things, but none of us know what it's like."
As each day passes, Rodriguez knows the anticipation for his milestone moment continues to grow. But prior to Tuesday's game, he reiterated the importance of team success over individual accolades.
"Six hundred goes way back here," Rodriguez said, pointing to the back of his locker. "There are other things aside from hitting -- we have to play defense, we need to pitch, we have to move runners over, we have to take the extra base. The key is just to think small."
Girardi, however, has watched that counsel backfire on his slugger. Over the course of the past few games, the manager said he's noticed a difference in Rodriguez's approach when he takes at-bats with no runners on base.
And it has shown. Rodriguez's past eight at-bats have come with the bases empty, but in that span, he's been unable to capitalize, striking out three times while hitting into three groundouts and flying out twice.
-- Didier Morais
Berkman unlikely to face lefties often
NEW YORK -- Facing left-hander Ricky Romero on Tuesday night, the Yankees unveiled what may be their lineup against southpaws for the rest of the season. The top five hitters were unchanged, but after that, Marcus Thames was at designated hitter instead of Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns was in left field, with Curtis Granderson getting the night off.
Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate, but that had more to do with there being a day game on Wednesday than the opposing pitcher.
"We'll switch it up a little bit, but this is why we went and made some of these acquisitions," manager Joe Girardi said.
Girardi said on Monday that he would probably not use Berkman as much against southpaws. The switch-hitter is having a dreadful year from the right side of the plate, having entered Tuesday with a paltry .188 average and one home run in such situations. For his career, Berkman has hit .262 from the right side, compared to .307 as a lefty.
Thames, on the other hand, is hitting .327 this year against left-handers.
Girardi said that Granderson would still get playing time against left-handers despite hitting just .214 off them this season.
"What I'm saying here is if you're going to sit [Granderson] and give him a day, you're probably going to do it against a left-hander with the addition of Austin Kearns," Girardi said. "And I'm going to do that with [Brett Gardner], too. It just gives me more options."
It isn't like the Yankees have had problems against southpaws of late. They're 22-14 on the season against lefties, including wins in their past six games and 10 of their past 12 versus left-handed starters.
-- Tim Britton
Since May, a hiccup for Yanks' rotation
NEW YORK -- At the end of May, the Yankees' starting rotation was far and away the team's strength, boasting a 3.71 ERA and, at that point, five reliable starters.
Over the past two months, however, the certainty in New York's rotation has all but disappeared. Phil Hughes went from being one of the American League's best pitchers to looking more like the fifth starter he was pegged as during Spring Training. Hughes' ERA through the first two months was 2.70; at 5.34, it is nearly double that since.
A.J. Burnett remains frustratingly inconsistent, having followed up his horrendous June with an excellent July, only to stumble again on Monday in his first August start. Andy Pettitte is still on the disabled list, and even CC Sabathia has dropped his past two outings after winning nine of 10.
"At times, we've struggled with pitching," manager Joe Girardi said. "Like any position player, you're going to go through good times and you're going to go through struggles as well. The key is to keep those struggles short and maybe not have everyone struggling at the same time."
Yankees starters entered Tuesday with an ERA of 4.13 since June 1. The difference may not appear much on paper, but it is essentially the gap between being a top rotation in the AL and being merely average. The Yankees had 10 scoreless starts in the first two months; they have half that number since.
-- Tim Britton
Left-hander CC Sabathia spent his Tuesday afternoon visiting two schools in the Bronx to tour two new playgrounds being built by Out2Play, part of the Pepsi Refresh Project. ... The Yankees got dressed a little early on Tuesday to take their team picture at 3:45 p.m. ET. ... Nick Swisher's seven home runs since the All-Star break are tied for second in the Majors behind the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista. Swisher's two homers on Monday gave him four long balls in as many games and tied him with Mark Teixeira for the team lead with 22. Robinson Cano is right behind with 21.
-- Tim Britton
Tim Britton and Didier Morais are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.