Jeter gets closer, Yanks sleepwalk to second place

Bartolo Colon was nothing like his regular self on Thursday. Somebody call his doctors.

During Casey Kotchman's at-bat in the top of the seventh tonight, Yankee Stadium fell so silent, I wondered if 47,787 people had simultaneously dozed off.

I'm (almost) serious about this. If you have this game on your DVR, listen for yourself. It was so strangely calm I was surprised when Michael Kay or John Flaherty didn't make reference to it.

There are a few possible explanations for this. We'll start with the game itself, a 5-1 stinker in which the Yankees seemed only marginally invested. Then there were the paid customers, who likely featured many more parachute fans than usual with the Derek Jeter hoopla surrounding the team.

Ah yes ... the Derek Jeter hoopla. The captain had another hit tonight, going 1-for-5 to move within two of 3,000. That march toward the milestone has certainly altered the fan experience of watching the team, which begs the question: Is it also having an effect on the Yankees as a unit?

Regardless of who or what's to blame, the Yankees' sudden funk — they've followed seven straight wins with four losses in five games — has dropped them out of first place after the Red Sox beat up on Baltimore.

 

Just as Justin Masterson had silenced their bats in the finale in Cleveland on Wednesday, the Yankees had no answers for Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann on Thursday. He allowed just one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings, escaping early trouble before locking into cruise control.

Bartolo Colon, meanwhile, looked much more like the pitcher most Yankees fans expected him to be when he was signed off the scrap heap in January. After a stellar four-start run in which he compiled four wins and an ERA of 1.00, Colon's two-seamer deserted him against the Rays in a bad way. Stripped of his most effective pitch, Colon had to lean on his less-than-stellar off-speed assortment.

It was not a recipe for success, as the 38-year-old's final line told the story: 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, 4 BB, 1 K, 2 HR.

Colon certainly deserves a pass here, considering his immense contribution this season. But after every clunker, there's always the lingering concern that big Bartolo is ready to turn back into a big pumpkin.

Stray observations:

  • Hector Noesi is alive! Someone call his family and deliver the incredible news!
  • Johnny Damon is 37 years old. I love the guy, but at some point the mohawk hairstyle needs to be put to rest. C'mon, Dad.
  • We had both a Tino Martinez and a Gerald "Ice" Williams sighting in the Derek Jeter Box. No sign of Minka, though.
  • Quick rant: I know some people say that batting average is dead, but to me, Mark Teixeira's .241 average accurately reflects that he's no longer a complete hitter. The monster run production is great, but are we all comfortable with his transformation into a rich man's Jessie Barfield? Not me.
  • Alex Rodriguez (0-for-4) continues his career-worst home run drought. As Flaherty alluded to after A-Rod hobbled to first during a groundout, wouldn't it make some sense for him to rest his knee (and hips and shoulder) during the All-Star break?
  • Robinson Cano had two hits, including his 15th homer, to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He's up to .297.
  • Kyle Farnsworth is one of the best closers in baseball. We're in the Twilight Zone.

  • Dan Hanzus is a regular contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

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