05/27/2007 6:17 PM ET
Jeter can't cure Yankees' recent woes
Captain unable to deliver in clutch, keep Bombers from sweep
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
"It was going to happen, no question," said Joe Torre of the chances Derek Jeter would come through with two outs in the ninth inning. (Ed Betz/AP)
NEW YORK -- The buildup had the Yankees hugging the foam padding of their dugout railing, with Derek Jeter in the tailor-made situation he covets, representing the winning run with the game on the line.
"I like those situations," Jeter said. "I think those are the fun situations."
As a dramatic at-bat with Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez unfolded in the ninth inning, all that was left was the big payoff. Get the photo crews in place, wrap the broadcast and cue Sinatra: as Joe Torre thought from the Yankees' dugout, this one couldn't possibly end without a "W."
"It was going to happen," Torre said. "It was going to happen, no question."
That celebratory ending never came for the Yankees, as Jeter decided on pitch No. 9 from Rodriguez and skied it to center field, drawing a brief roar from the hopeful crowd, but ultimately stranding pinch-hitter Jorge Posada on third base.
The Angels congregated in the infield to shake hands and savor their three-game sweep, while the Yankees were left to board an airport-bound bus and wonder when all that is wrong would finally turn right.
"Derek made Rodriguez work, but we're still a little short," Torre said. "We need to solve that problem."
Historically, the Angels have always seemed to give the Yankees fits, posting the only winning record against the Bombers in Torre's era as manager. Sunday's victory improved the Halos' record to 58-52 against New York since 1996, but the Yankees have larger problems than just Mike Scioscia's club right now.
The three-game whitewash ended a string of nine games that the Yankees played against first-place clubs, in which they fared just 3-6. The loss was the seventh in the Yankees' last 10 games, dropping them a season-low six games under .500.
"We're not giving up," Jeter said. "That's the biggest thing. We have to get some wins. That's the only way you can look at it. We had an opportunity there in the ninth and couldn't do it, but you can't give up. You've got to continue to fight."
Part of the problem has been the Yankees' continued inconsistency. Some days, like Sunday, the club garners an effective starting pitching performance from Mike Mussina, but has to rely on light-hitting understudy catcher Wil Nieves to drive in two of the three runs the Yankees managed against Angels pitching.
Other times, the Yankees have managed to put up runs -- they brought in six on Friday -- but surrender more than they can score, as rookie Tyler Clippard gave up three and the bullpen let in seven more.
After Sunday's game, several reporters tried their mental thesauruses to crack Jeter's opinions on the matter, a line of questioning that prompted catcher Jorge Posada to bolt for a clubhouse exit after being hit by the "frustration" query one too many times on Saturday.
One day later, Jeter sat patiently and half-dressed at his clubhouse locker, cradling a warming bottle of water between his legs. He looked fairly comfortable, but made it clear he was not happy with the state of affairs.
"I don't think it really makes a difference what words you use -- frustrated, worried," Jeter said. "The bottom line is that we have to win. I don't sit around and worry about it, because every day we come in, you feel like we can win a game."
The Yankees haven't done that nearly as much as expected. The Angels' Orlando Cabrera isn't the only one having a tough time in the Bronx: the confines of Yankee Stadium have not proven all that friendly, as Sunday's loss dropped the Yankees to 12-13 on home soil.
Jeter suggested that perhaps the remedy could be to go on the road, though their record living out of hotel rooms is an even less encouraging 9-14. Either way, it's an assignment they'll have to face, as the Yankees tackle an 11-day, 10-game road trip that swings them to Toronto, Boston and Chicago.
By the end of it, a rookie pitcher will have likely surrendered his locker to 44-year-old right-hander Roger Clemens, but even the Rocket's relaunch can't possibly cure all that ails the Yankees. Jeter feels that the current personnel has what it takes to turn around their underwhelming season, and what's more, he says he has little patience for those who aren't in agreement.
"If you don't believe that, you should go home," Jeter said. "Everyone in here has to have the attitude that we have a better team than we've been playing like. We'll turn things around. You have to have optimism."
Surrounded by all this going on around him, Jeter must look at his .352 batting average -- plus a .609 (14-for-23) mark in two-out, scoring-position opportunities like his on Sunday -- and wonder what more he can do.
Jeter still insists that the Yankees win as a team and lose as a team. The problem is that they've experienced far too much of the latter, and as the captain says, if there was an easy fix, it would have been applied long ago.
"We have to get it together," Jeter said. "And we have to get it together soon."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
print this page | e-mail this page