By Kevin Kernan NY Post
The end comes slowly, one painful injury, one telling loss after another.
That is what is happening to the Yankees.
On a night Carlos Beltran was scratched from the lineup with more elbow pain, the Yankees dropped their second straight game to the lowly Astros, 5-2, Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, the fourth loss in five games to Houston this season.
Manager Joe Girardi didn’t do himself any favors, bringing in David Huff and Esmil Rogers in the seventh inning as the Yankees blew a 2-1 lead. The 42,102 fans at the Stadium let loose with the loudest boos of the season as the bullpen surrendered five singles and four runs in the inning, ruining Michael Pineda’s effort.
Girardi’s offense continues to be stuck in reverse.
Asked if he was thinking of any lineup changes — the Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on yet another night of lost opportunities — Girardi said, “We’ve talked about this before. What would you like me to do?’’
A suggestion was offered, but Girardi said he does not want to change the top of the order — Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury — because “Those guys have probably been our most consistent hitters all year long. I’m not thinking about moving those guys.’’
He added he does not want two left-handed hitters hitting back-to-back in Gardner and Ellsbury.
There you have it.
Piece by piece, the aging Yankees are falling apart. Beltran got another cortisone shot in his elbow and hopes to be back in the lineup Friday.
Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Beltran are all hitting .233.
“It’s been a tough year for Carlos and I, neither of us have been close to 100 percent all year,’’ Teixeira said. “For guys that are going to be in the middle of your order, it’s tough to have them banged up.’’
That says it all.
With 38 games to play, the Yankees are getting blown out in the AL East by the Orioles, who lead the Yankees by 9 1/2 games. In the wild-card race, the Yankees trail by five games and have to jump over four teams. They have scored 487 runs and allowed 530.
Girardi must find a way to get his team to click down the stretch. They have lost seven of nine. There is a leadership void because of so many new pieces.
“It is not the same as it was,’’ one Yankee told The Post, “and that’s because of what we’ve gone through as a team and the injuries we’ve had. The guys are trying their best, but it’s just so tough.’’
Girardi said his players know the situation and do not need to be reminded by him — in other words: no team meetings.
How bad is it? Ex-Yankee Jose Veras got his first save of the season.
Girardi is not about to challenge his players. That’s not his style to have a team meeting and offer up fire and brimstone — he is a Kumbaya-type manager.
As for being embarrassed by the Astros and their $45 million payroll, Girardi said, that’s just baseball. It so happens that $45 million is what the Yankees are paying Beltran over three years.
“I think it’s baseball,’’ Girardi said. “I told you the other day when I was asked about them, this is a team that can score some runs, and they went to Boston and scored runs and they out-hit us and that is why they won.’’
Maybe, but the Astros have had the Yankees’ number because, as one Astro said, “We force the action against them, try to take the extra base. They are an older team and you can do that against them.’’
As for his bullpen choices, Girardi gave Dellin Betances the night off, so he designated Shawn Kelley as his eighth-inning reliever.
Sticking to that script and the formula baseball approach, the Yankees lost the game in the seventh inning, another bad night all around.