By Joel Sherman
Carlos Beltran (from left), Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann are all under contract for next season.
The Yankees won 3-0 Thursday. Brandon McCarthy was the matinee hero. Maybe because the righty — liberated to throw his cutter and four-seamer away from Arizona — has morphed into a version of prime Josh Johnson. Maybe because this is how limp day games after night games look in an age of sterner testing for amphetamines and steroids.
Whatever the reasons, the Yankees accept wins now like the hungry devour food. Why you get the wins or food runs a distant second to getting the wins/food. Such is life when your team is four games out of a wild card with 37 to play and owns a 3.7 percent chance of making the postseason, according to ESPN.com.
But if you examine this game, the Yankees maintained the same problem in victory as in defeat. They just don’t hit. Not with any consistency or impact. The Yanks strung three straight hits together in the second en route to three runs against the Astros. Then managed four singles and no runs the rest of the game. Such is life when you are next-to-last in the AL in runs and have no ability to capitalize on the unique dimensions of your stadium.
It was essentially, “Here are your three runs, Mr. McCarthy, good luck.” McCarthy made them stand up. He even went the distance in a Connie Mack-ish 2 hours, 7 minutes. The two previous nights, the Yankees offense could not break away from the Astros and a bullpen wilted from having to protect so many close games either had key elements unavailable or guys collapse.
McCarthy’s complete game meant no relievers were needed. But the inability to tack on — the Yanks put the leadoff man on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings without scoring — meant Dellin Betances and David Robertson had to warm up.
This is why the Yankees’ playoff chances are so slim. They have a poor offense and defense, a cobbled-together and overachieving rotation, and their strength — their pen — is worn down. Maybe McCarthy, Shane Greene and Michael Pineda will continue to work like top-of-the-rotation pieces, the offense will revive and the team will make a late surge to yet another postseason.
But I have yet to find a Yankees official — beyond Joe Girardi’s Pollyanna public statements — who feels a U-turn for this offense is likely.
In fact, maybe these Yanks would be better off getting clobbered by the lowly White Sox this weekend, having their fate fully defined and taking advantage of pitching needs with the Angels and Dodgers to see if they could trade McCarthy and/or Hiroki Kuroda (who has a no-trade clause, but retains a Southern California residence). The Yankees, though, have yet to try to put either righty through waivers and both would be questionable to get through. Plus, it remains highly doubtful Hal Steinbrenner will ever accept surrender, particularly as he tries to make Derek Jeter’s farewell more than a funeral dirge.
So they soldier on, hoping against logic that there is health and a best-is-still-to-come for Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira. However, here might be the scariest thought as you watch the last quarter of this season: It may be Jeter’s end, but something still near the beginning of the Yankees’ offensive problems. They are into Beltran, McCann and Teixeira through at least 2016, the free-agent market is mostly devoid of hitting difference-makers and the farm system (sorry, fans of Rob Refsnyder and Tyler Austin) is not close to delivering impact.
The Yankees’ offense just might be the problem that keeps on giving.