Yankees' sluggish bats leave no margin for error

June 24th, 2023

NEW YORK -- For the better part of two weeks, Aaron Boone has played the same notes in his daily chats with the press, the Yankees manager expressing confidence that his sluggish offense will reverse course and score contributions from some of its bold-faced stars.

That wait continues, and in the meantime, there is little margin for error.  had a couple of miscues, one in the outfield and one on the bases, before Michael King surrendered Adolis García’s go-ahead 10th-inning homer in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Rangers on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

“This game’s on me today,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I’ve got to keep the ball in front. I got caught in between trying to make a play and playing it safe.”

Kiner-Falefa was referring to his play in the fourth inning, when Leody Taveras blooped a single into shallow center field. Concerned about the possibility of crashing into shortstop Anthony Volpe, Kiner-Falefa hesitated, then fumbled the pickup as Ezequiel Duran hustled home with Texas’ first run.

In the fifth, Kiner-Falefa starred in a bizarre moment when he slid safely into second base on a stolen-base attempt, then popped off the bag and returned to the dugout. Kiner-Falefa said that he had heard someone say, “Out!” But it was not second-base umpire John Bacon, who did rule Kiner-Falefa out when second baseman Marcus Semien slapped a tag on him.

“Another dumb play that can’t happen again,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I heard someone scream, ‘Out!’ in my ear. It might have been Marcus, might have been the umpire. That can’t happen. I need to stay on the base, look around and check what’s going on. I thought I was out; I had a bad jump. I thought my foot slipped off the base.”

Ultimately, Kiner-Falefa’s actions might not have mattered -- replays showed that his foot came off the bag, and Texas surely would have challenged. But the optics were poor, especially as the Yankees continued to struggle at the plate. Their June team batting average (.193), on-base percentage (.254) and runs scored (60) all rank 30th in the Majors.

“Ultimately, it’s about getting a good pitch to hit,” Boone said. “We’ve got to do better to generate some offense.”

Dane Dunning largely held the Yankees in check through seven-plus innings, pitching to contact while permitting two runs and five hits.

“He was able to get some weak contact off the bat with spin, and get some chases,” Boone said. “We’ve got to mount more. Simple as that.”

was sturdy, holding Texas to one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings. The Rangers pushed ahead in the eighth with Mitch Garver’s run-scoring hit off Clay Holmes, but the Yankees responded to re-tie the game in the home half, when hits by Kiner-Falefa and Billy McKinney set up Kyle Higashioka’s pinch-hit sac fly.

“My job doesn’t really change,” Schmidt said. “It’s to put up zeros, regardless of how many runs we have. We’re in a little bit of a rut offensively, but we know we’re going to pull ourselves out of it. We have some talented guys throughout our lineup, so it’s not a worry for me.”

But other than Anthony Rizzo’s two-out single in the ninth, the Bombers’ bats were done for the night. Giancarlo Stanton finished 0-for-4, extending his hitless skid to 20 at-bats (and 5-for-52 since returning from the injured list on June 3).

“I feel like he’s a little off from a timing standpoint, not really having that good set and load like he does when he’s locked in,” Boone said. “He’s got to get there at some point.”

Josh Donaldson struck out as a 10th-inning pinch-hitter for McKinney as Boone favored a right-on-left matchup with Will Smith. Stanton and Donaldson both heard loud boos.

The 10th inning brought King, a legitimate candidate for the American League All-Star team last summer before sustaining a fractured right elbow. He has not enjoyed the same success this year, especially in June, pitching to a 7.71 ERA (eight earned runs in 9 1/3 innings) across seven appearances.

King has been tinkering with his setup for a couple of weeks now, hoping to unlock some of his power. It didn’t click on Friday; with an automatic runner aboard, King saw his first pitch of the night hammered into the left-field seats by García for a decisive blast.

“I just can’t throw it over the middle,” King said. “He’s a good hitter. If I make a mistake, he’s going to hit it. I just didn’t execute the pitch.”