NEW YORK -- For the new-look Yankees offense, it was an early chance to impress.
In the eighth inning of a tie game Wednesday night against the Orioles, the Yankees had the go-ahead run at third base with one out and newcomers Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann scheduled to bat. They didn't score, and the Orioles scored off Shawn Kelley in the ninth to beat the Yankees 5-4.
It's been a mostly underwhelming start for the Yankees' hitters, especially for McCann, who went 0-for-12 in the Baltimore series to drop his batting average to .152. While it's far too early for McCann to be a cause for major concern, the local opinion on the new Yankees catcher could be shaped (fairly or unfairly) by how he does this weekend against the Red Sox.
"It's weird," McCann said. "I feel good at the plate. But you look up, and I'm not getting any hits."
McCann actually made solid contact in the eighth, but his fly ball to medium-deep center field ended the inning. The bigger problem for the Yankees was that with Brett Gardner on third base with one out, Ellsbury popped up for the second out (allowing the Orioles to walk Beltran and pitch to McCann).
Ellsbury, who will face his former team for the first time on Thursday night, is off to a decent start at the plate. But Mark Teixeira's injury has turned him from a leadoff hitter into a No. 3 hitter, and given a chance to deliver a key hit Wednesday, he wasn't able to take advantage.
"[Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz] threw me a slider down and away," Ellsbury said. "I thought I could lift it to the outfield. It didn't happen."
The Yankees haven't been awful at the plate in the early going, but they haven't been high-powered, either. Until Beltran and Kelly Johnson homered in the second inning Wednesday, the Yankees had hit just three home runs in eight games.
Girardi said Wednesday afternoon that he's not yet close to being concerned about McCann's slow start.
"There's no sign of concern," he said. "I feel like his timing's a little bit off. It seems at times he's been a little bit late. But he'll fix that. I'm not worried about that."
The captain bunts: After Gardner led off the eighth inning with a double, Girardi chose to have Derek Jeter bunt Gardner over to third base. It was a move many managers would make, but one that was a touch surprising because a Jeter base hit would have given the Yankees the lead.
"It's easier to score from third base," Girardi said. "And [Gardner's] speed puts pressure on the defense. About anything will score the run other than a popup on the infield."
True enough. But Ellsbury popped up, and the Yankees never did score the run.
Girardi said he gave Jeter the sign to bunt, but there was some feeling in the Yankees clubhouse that Jeter was bunting for a hit. The Yankees had noticed that Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was playing back.
The closer fails: Kelley, filling in as closer with David Robertson hurt, gave up the two game-deciding runs in the ninth. Kelley wasn't hit hard, but closing is very much a results-driven job.
McCann defended Kelley by pointing out that two of the Orioles' hits in the inning came on bloops to the outfield, but Kelley took some of the blame himself.
"I felt like I made some good pitches early in the count to get ahead," he said. "Then I got the ball down, but I would have liked for some of those pitches to be in the dirt, rather than just down. Then maybe they don't hit them.
"Ninth inning, tie game, I've got to go out and get three outs."