- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Wednesday night, Curtis Granderson fouled a ball off his already-tender right calf in the third inning. Two innings later, he ran full-speed and virtually face-first into the center-field wall. Three innings after that, he got plunked between the wings by a 95-mph fastball.
And Thursday night, when the New York Yankees needed a big bat to come off their bench and wake up a punchless offense, the only one they could turn to was Granderson.
"Just trying to tie it up with one swing of the bat,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said afterward. "You know Grandy's got the ability to do that.''
Not on this night he didn't. Three hours earlier, the manager had determined Granderson didn't even have the ability to play considering the beating he had taken the night before, and on Tuesday, when a Jeremy Hellickson sinker dove onto his left foot.
Granderson was a mess, and so was the Yankees' offense. But even in his diminished condition, he still represented the most dangerous bat the visiting team could muster.
He had won Wednesday's game with a two-run homer, his 26th of the season, off David Price, but he couldn't do it again Thursday, flying out against James Shields as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and striking out after a seven-pitch battle with Kyle Farnsworth to end the game.
The Yankees lost the series finale to the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-1, in part because of Shields' pitching and in part because of the Yankees' hitting, or lack thereof.
No question, Shields was great, greater than he was 11 days ago at Yankee Stadium when he dueled with CC Sabathia and wound up losing, 1-0, when his own pickoff throw went awry. On Thursday night, Shields was greater than Sabathia, who threw just two bad pitches all night but paid the ultimate price for both of them.
That doesn't change the essential point of the game or of the now-completed eight-game road trip: On too many nights, the Yankees, who lead baseball in home runs and trail just the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers in runs scored, simply don't have enough offense.
They don't have enough bats because they don't have enough bench. Some of that is due to injury. (Alex Rodriguez won't play for at least another month after undergoing knee surgery on July 14 and Eric Chavez, expected to be a potent force off the bench, has been out for two months with a broken foot.) And some of that is because other than Granderson, no one is performing up to expectations.
Mark Teixeira has the power numbers -- 25 homers and 67 RBIs -- but his batting average (.240) is pathetic. Robinson Cano is having a good year -- .294-16-62 -- but not nearly the bust-out season he had in 2010. Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Russell Martin are all underachieving in one area or another.
And when it came to crunch time on Thursday, with the Yankees down by two runs that felt like 20 and with only seven outs left, the only one Girardi could turn to was Granderson, who just a few hours before was buried under more ice than the Titanic.
All along, we thought the Yankees would be shopping for a pitcher -- whether a starter, a reliever or, more likely, both -- before the trade deadline.
Now, it is clear that what they need to shop for is another bat.
Does that bat belong to Carlos Beltran, whose run with the Mets is over and whom the Yankees would not have to pay a nickel in salary to? Maybe.
If it costs them a once-prized prospect, such as Jesus Montero, or a promising young starter, such as Ivan Nova, is it worth it for a two-month rental?
That is for Brian Cashman and his staff to determine.
Last year at the deadline, Cashman came up with Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns to shore up his bench. Not great, but better than what they had. Who the Yankees want and what they are willing to pay for them this year is for them to decide. But there can be no debate about what they need.
Simply put, there are few fearsome bats in their lineup these days and absolutely none coming off their bench.
Andruw Jones was a good idea at the time they signed him for $2 million plus incentives, but he hasn't been an upgrade from Marcus Thames, he has been a step back. In fact there are rumors that the Yankees will attempt to re-sign Thames, who was recently released by the Dodgers. Despite showing sporadic signs of life, Posada has not thrived in his new role as the DH. Chris Dickerson looks dangerous in the clubhouse and harmless at the plate. Francisco Cervelli has had his home run for the year. Brandon Laird, called up this week to replace the anemic-hitting Ramiro Pena, out after an emergency appendectomy, has yet to have a major league at-bat.
In three of the eight games on this road trip, the Yankees scored two runs or fewer. In all eight, they scored a total of 30. Not all the pitchers they faced were James Shields or David Price. Some nights, the Yankee hitters just made it seem as though they were.
After Thursday night's game, in which Sabathia threw his third complete game of the year, allowing just five hits and two earned runs while striking out eight, the Yankees seemed content to give all the credit to Shields, and he certainly deserved plenty of it.
Through seven innings, he had allowed just four hits, two of them infield singles, until he tired in the eighth and surrendered doubles to Jeter and Cano for the Yankees' only run of the game. (Jeter's hit was No. 3,010 of his career, tying him with former teammate Wade Boggs for 25th on the all-time list.)
Meanwhile, as good as Sabathia was, he committed three cardinal sins: allowing a two-out home run to Evan Longoria in the first; walking the No. 8 hitter, Elliott Johnson, in the fifth; and hanging a two-out slider to the next batter, Sam Fuld, a lefty, who pulled it into the right-field corner for what turned out to be the game-winning triple. That was enough to make Sabathia a loser for the fifth time in 19 decisions, this one coming on his 31st birthday.
But it is hard to accept that a lineup as highly paid and intermittently powerful as the Yankees' couldn't manage to score as many as three runs, even off Shields, whose career record against them was 3-10 coming into the game.
"That's baseball,'' Girardi said. "It's unfortunate that we only got one run, but you're going to lose some games like that over the course of the season.''
The Yankees seem to have lost more than their share of games like that so far this year. In nearly half their games this season (43), they have scored four runs or fewer. And on Thursday night, needing just three, they couldn't even get two.
The answer is obvious. The team with the $200 million payroll is at least one bat short.
They've got about 10 more days to go out and find it.
The Yankees need another bat for their struggling offense.