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Girardi optimistic Yanks' bats will soon break out

KANSAS CITY -- The New York Yankees are 13th in the American League in runs scored. This is a long way from anything resembling our shared notion of the Bronx Bombers.

The Yankees have been slumping offensively for some time. The problem isn't becoming any less acute. In their last 10 games, the Yanks have scored 28 runs and have gone 3-7. After 62 games, they are a .500 team.

To their manager, Joe Girardi, this does not mean that a crisis is at hand. It means instead that the Yankees are due to go on a tear.

"I'm an optimist," Girardi said Monday in the visiting manager's office at Kauffman Stadium. "You know that. I don't believe people forget to hit overnight. I just don't believe it happens. You know that it's a long haul. You know it's 162 games. Averages are usually averages, because over time it's going to equal out. So I've got to believe we're due to get hot."

There was no opportunity to test Girardi's theory Monday night. The scheduled game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals was postponed due to rain. The Royals had taken two out of three from the Yanks over the weekend.

Much has been made of the fact that the Yankees are missing three pitchers from their projected starting rotation. But the pitching hasn't been the core problem. The Yanks are 12th in the league in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging percentage. Again, this sort of thing is distinctly un-Yankee-like.

And it is not as though one or two culprits are dragging down the rest of the offense. A majority of Yankees hitters are performing below their career norms. To some people, this might look like serious trouble ahead. To Girardi, it means that better days are coming.

"The one thing that you can't do is you can't necessarily start changing everything," the manager said. "You look at what guys have done in the past, you try to put what you think is the best lineup together every day. It's been two months. We've struggled the last three or four weeks scoring runs. Obviously, we know we need to score more, but guys are going through a tough time. Sometimes you've just got to ride it out a little bit.

"You might move a guy one position down, one position up, that sort of thing. But for the most part, numbers even out over time. Maybe it's like buying and selling stocks all the time -- you try to figure out when it's going to be at its highest and when it's going to be at its lowest. You know, it's hard to predict. No one knows the answers.

"You move a guy down and he goes 3-for-4, and then you wish you had him hitting fifth that day when two guys were on. That's what you deal with. The big thing is to get them going. That's the big thing, and they need at-bats to get going."

As a former player, the quality of empathy is available for Girardi.

"Believe me, I know what it was like to struggle as a hitter," he said with a smile. "I know when I watch games on TV or broadcast games, you think: 'Man, that looks easy to hit,' because it's slow. But when you got up to the plate, it wasn't easy. I understand. I don't ever want to forget how hard it is to play this game. Some guys at times make it look real easy. But it's really difficult.

"Sometimes, it's the pitchers you run into, sometimes it's mechanical, maybe you're a little bit over-aggressive. There's a lot of different things that can take place. It's just getting through that."

At some point, the Yankees hitting like the Yanks are supposed to hit becomes an article of faith. You either have it or you don't. Girardi has that faith in an amount that is much larger than marginal.

"You're never as good as when you're going great and vice versa," Girardi said. "And right now, we're going through tough times and I know we're better than this."

The Yankees go to the West Coast now for three-game series in Seattle and Oakland. Seattle is second in the AL in team ERA. Oakland is first. The degree of difficulty for the Yanks' offense isn't going to be diminished. But if Girardi's optimism is well-placed, the revival of the Yankees' offense should start any day now.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for
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