05/06/09 2:20 AM ET
No panic, but no comfort, for Yankees
Winless against Red Sox, Girardi's club looks for positives
By Jared Diamond / MLB.com
That they had just fallen for the fifth straight time against the Red Sox to start the season was just a coincidence. Mark Teixeira maintained that New York's 7-3 loss on Tuesday was no different any other. Jose Molina argued that the Yankees "don't care about that," and the problem was simply a matter of some unfortunate timing and bad luck.
Then left fielder Johnny Damon dropped the bombshell everyone was waiting for just by saying what was already evident from watching the games.
"We know why," said Damon, when asked how the Red Sox had been able to coast through the first five games of the season series. "They outplayed us. They outpitched us. All of the games were fairly close, but at this point of the season, they're a better team than we are."
With their loss on Tuesday in the finale of an abbreviated two-game series, the Yankees have lost their first five games against the Red Sox for the first time since 1985. That year, the punishment was manager Yogi Berra's job -- he was fired one series later, after 6-10 start. The Yankees have not lost their first six contests against the Red Sox since 1912, when they finished the season 50-102 and were still called the New York Highlanders.
The Yankees have now lost six consecutive games to their archrival overall, dating back to the final game of the 2008 season. It is the Bombers' longest losing streak against the Red Sox since they dropped six straight from Sept. 17, 2006-April 27, 2007.
In the five games so far this season, the Yankees have lost games in a variety of ways. They were swept in three straight games April 24-26 at Fenway Park in a series that saw Mariano Rivera blow a save, Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury convert a straight steal of home and the Red Sox outslug New York in a 16-11 shootout.
This week, the Red Sox jumped out to quick leads in both games and held off any comeback attempt by the Yankees with strong starting pitching and consistent relief work. On Tuesday, Boston scored four runs in the first inning against starter Joba Chamberlain and never looked back, tacking on three extra runs in the final two frames against New York's struggling bullpen.
The one common thread between the two series, though, is that Boston has kept the upper hand.
All of that could easily leave a team demoralized, but Damon took some comfort in the fact that the Yankees entered Wednesday only 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, despite their lopsided season series.
And there may be some good news before the two teams next meet from June 9-11 in Boston. If all goes according to plan, five key players should be off the disabled list for the next series, including rehabbing third baseman Alex Rodriguez and struggling starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang.
"The good thing is that it's early," Damon said. "We have time to correct the problems. We're getting Alex back here soon, [Jorge] Posada will be back, [Brian] Bruney will be back, [Xavier] Nady will be back. Yeah, they beat us five times, but we know we're a better team than what we showed."
Like most of his players, manager Joe Girardi is trying not to put too much stock in a five-game sample -- even against the Red Sox -- but he admitted the early returns have been "frustrating." Nevertheless, Girardi refused to say too much about the team that currently holds the second-best record in the American League, saying it is against his competitive nature to compliment any opponent.
Instead of lingering on their series with the Red Sox, the Yankees after Tuesday's game immediately turned their attention to what's coming next -- a two-game series at home against the defending AL champion Rays, who currently sit two games behind the Yankees in the AL East.
The best remedy for a disappointing week is a quick turnaround and a win to snap a three-game losing streak.
"Remember, it's a long season," Molina said. "We play [the Red Sox] many, many times. We're going to forget about these two games and try to get back tomorrow against Tampa and beat them."
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.