Garrett Jones pitched.

Got that? Garrett Jones, backup first baseman and backup designated hitter, pitched Saturday. 

For the New York Yankees.

In a real game.

And he was their most effective arm.

That is where this season has sunk to for the Yankees, a team with one win in its last 10 games. It had a four-game lead in the American League East just last week but now trails by 1.5 and was shellacked 15-4 by the Texas Rangers on Saturday. Lopsided losses like that tend to happen when you give up 10 runs in an inning a day after allowing 10 total.

“We got embarrassed,” outfielder Brett Gardner told reporters. “It seems about as bad as it can get.”

That is an agreeable statement, to say the least. However, there are reasons to think things could get worse and we are just witnessing the start of the end of the Yankees’ early-season success story.

Their run to the top of the standings peaked with an 11-5 win at Tampa Bay on May 11. To that point, the offense was performing well with a .759 OPS, 43 home runs and a 4.8 run-per-game average.

In its 10 games since that win, New York has cratered. Going into Saturday, the Yankees were hitting .223/.277/.333 with a .610 OPS and 3.1 runs per game. The lineup managed to make itself appear somewhat respectable Saturday with seven hits and a couple of homers. But considering all four runs were scored after the outcome was decided, that’s not worth celebrating.

Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the team’s better offensive contributors this season, has not played since Tuesday after landing on the disabled list with a knee issue. There is no timetable for his return, and manager Joe Girardi thinks it will take more than the minimum 15 days for him to recover.

More worrisome is the starting pitching, a group that has been shaky all season but seems to be getting worse by the game at this point. The rotation’s May ERA is now 5.08, the worst in the league.

It took over that top/bottom spot Saturday after what was CC Sabathia’s ugliest outing since his fall from baseball grace started in 2013—and his shortest since 2009. The former ace lasted 2.1 innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits, all of them singles. The start pushed Sabathia’s ERA to 5.47, the sixth-highest posting among qualified AL starters.

Based on what we’ve seen from Sabathia so far, there is no indication that things will get better in the near future.

Michael Pineda, the man tasked with helping Masahiro Tanaka lead the rotation this season and then with leading it himself after Tanaka’s forearm injury in late April, has been disappointing through nine starts, including Friday’s in which he allowed eight hits and seven runs (four earned) in six innings. He lost that decision despite the offense scoring nine runs.

Pineda has shown flashes of dominance—eight shutout innings in Toronto on May 5—but too often he has flopped—five earned runs over 5.1 innings on May 15—leading to his 110 adjusted ERA, which is only reasonably better than league average.

Tanaka’s second rehab start will happen Wednesday, and it’s possible he could rejoin the rotation after that. He could provide significant help, but his health will be a constant question mark after this DL stint and last season’s partial ulnar collateral ligament tear that landed him on the 60-day DL.

This is not rock bottom for the Yankees, because they could retake first place by this time next week. Also because that would assume things could not get any worse.

They could, as soon as Sunday.

After allowing 25 runs in two games to a team that was five games under .500 before this series and 11th out of 15 AL teams in slugging percentage, OPS and weighted runs created plus, according to Fangraphs, the Yankees will send out Chris Capuano. The veteran left-hander has made one start this season—last Sunday—and allowed four runs in three innings.

Counting on him to be a stopper is a sure sign of desperation, especially before hosting the first-place Kansas City Royals, the best offensive team in the league.

“They happen during the season,” Girardi told reporters about losing trends. “It’s no fun when you go through it. You don’t expect to go through it for this long a period. We need to change it.”

The Yankees certainly do. It just not might happen anytime soon, especially if Garrett Jones continues to be their most effective pitcher.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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