Yankees held in check: 'We're on the cusp'

Kluber fades in 5th inning; Urshela OK after exiting with back tightness

April 22nd, 2021

NEW YORK -- The frustration of another lost evening spilled over for the Yankees during the seventh inning on Wednesday, when Gleyber Torres’ checked swing produced a soft roller in front of home plate. Disgusted by giving away an at-bat, he jogged up the first-base line, a display that his manager would describe as unacceptable.

That incident alone probably would not have changed the outcome of the game, not with the Yankees’ struggling lineup held to five hits, but Torres said that he recognized the bad optics of the play. New York lost for the sixth time in seven games, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Braves at Yankee Stadium.

“The situation we are in right now, that is a moment that I want to hit to help my team,” Torres said. “To check my swing and hit the ball right to the pitcher, that is not the way I want to finish my at-bat. I know what I did. I can put a little more effort on that.”

Up and down the lineup, Torres has plenty of company in the search for results. Ian Anderson handcuffed the Bombers through six innings, and with the right-hander wobbling in the seventh, New York’s best chance washed away when DJ LeMahieu -- their most consistent hitter in pressure situations over the past two years -- chopped an inning-ending grounder to third base.

“We had a couple of opportunities, but not really enough to break through,” manager Aaron Boone said. “As a group, we’ve just got to continue to lean on each other and trust each other.”

Regarding the checked swing, Boone said he believed Torres might have initially thought it was a foul ball, but even if that were the case, Boone believes that Torres could have hustled.

“That’s got to be a little bit better, obviously,” said Boone, who plans to speak with Torres before Thursday’s game at Cleveland.

The shaky defense that Torres displayed on the first homestand has settled down, but his bat remains cold. Torres owns one hit in his last 16 at-bats and is batting .186 with two extra-base hits this season, searching for the production that established his place as an American League All-Star in each of his first two campaigns.

“I feel like I’m missing my pitch,” Torres said. “I want to help my team. ... I feel confident right now. I’m working hard before the game, trying to control what I can.”

Despite the Yanks’ early-season woes, outfielder Aaron Judge described a clubhouse atmosphere in which the players continue to expect success. The batting practice routines, cage work and weight-room regimens all remain on track, but the disconnect has come when the cleats meet the dirt each evening. It is an issue that Judge believes can be corrected quickly.

“We’re not getting the job done as a whole, but I believe in this team, just like every single guy in that room believes in this team,” Judge said. “We don’t need to make drastic adjustments. We’re right there. We’re on the cusp of getting on a hot streak here and getting it rolling.”

No margin for error
started for the Yanks and was sharp through four innings before losing his command of the strike zone in the fifth. In that frame, Pablo Sandoval scorched a single to right, advanced on two walks and scored on Ehire Adrianza’s sacrifice fly. Marcell Ozuna added a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk facing reliever Nick Nelson later in the inning.

“I wish I would have done a better job of making an adjustment in the middle of the inning,” Kluber said. “I didn’t do as good a job with that as I would have liked.”

Kluber, who worked 4 2/3 frames, has yet to complete five innings in four starts as a Yankee. Atlanta added a soft run in the seventh as an Austin Riley infield hit and a LeMahieu error on a routine grounder set up Ozuna’s broken-bat RBI fielder’s choice.

The Yanks avoided a shutout when Aaron Hicks scored on Clint Frazier’s two-out single in the ninth, Frazier’s first RBI of the season.

Clean bill of health
appeared to run gingerly on a sixth-inning double-play ball, and the infielder exited the game in the eighth. The Yankees announced that Urshela had tightness in his lower back, and Boone said no tests were scheduled. Urshela could be in the lineup on Thursday, when the Yankees open a four-game series at Cleveland.

“They feel it’s going to be something that is day to day,” Boone said. “I think it just locked up a little bit in the cold. He probably could have continued [playing]. I don’t think it’s anything too serious.”