In two of the games against the Blue Jays, Girardi brought his infield in with a runner on third and one out in the early innings of a scoreless game, though he denied that those moves had been influenced by his struggling offense.
On Thursday, the Yankees wasted doubles in each of the first three innings against Estrada, who pitched seven scoreless innings before giving way to Ryan Tepera and Roberto Osuna. They put two runners on with nobody out to start the fifth, but Estrada retired Brett Gardner and Hicks on pop flies and caught Aaron Judge looking at a third strike, something he did twice.
In all, the Yankees were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base, seven of them in scoring position.
“Those situations, when they come up, it’s like, ‘Relax, you’ve got it,’” said third baseman Todd Frazier, who singled and had another hit taken away on a fine play by second baseman Rob Refsnyder, a former Yankee. “But in your mind, you know if it’s a situation where you can do some damage, maybe we put a little too much pressure on ourselves, to be honest.”
Though Judge doubled and walked, he is hitting .172 since the All-Star break with just six extra-base hits. Hicks, who was activated when Clint Frazier (oblique) was put on the disabled list, was hitless in five at-bats, failing to hit the ball out of the infield and having his bat shattered by Estrada’s final pitch. He struck out against Osuna to end the game.
It was not an auspicious sign leading to the series against the Red Sox, who have stacked their rotation so their two best pitchers — their ace, Chris Sale, and Drew Pomeranz, who has beaten the Yankees twice — will pitch in each series against the Yankees the next two weekends. On the other hand, the Yankees’ two best pitchers — Luis Severino and Sonny Gray — will each miss one of the series.
Asked if he had given consideration to moving Gray, who pitched Thursday on six days’ rest, back an additional day so he could start Friday against the Red Sox, Girardi said he did not want to interfere with the rhythm of Severino or Gray.
“They’re creatures of habit,” Girardi said.
Gray kept the Yankees in reach on Thursday, but he was not nearly as sharp as he was against the Indians last week in his Yankees debut. The command of his fastball came and went, as did the late movement on his pitches at the bottom of the strike zone.
The defense, which made…