NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi was as angry as he has been after any of the New York Yankees' previous 25 losses this season, but his displeasure was not directed at David Robertson, who blew the save on his first pitch of the ninth inning and ultimately, the game.
The Yankees manager was disgusted that his closer was even thrust into the position of having to protect a one-run lead in the first place, especially with former Yankee Phil Hughes, a one-time home run machine, on the mound and the Yankees having started the fourth inning by loading the bases with none out.
But they came away with only two runs and by the end of the day had managed just three hits, all off Hughes, all game. Hughes and Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar retired the last 15 Yankees to come to the plate in Sunday's 7-2 Minnesota victory.
And even choosing his words carefully, there was no doubt that Girardi was calling out some of the high-priced talent in his lineup for failing to produce. In fact, it was his two elder statesmen, 39-year-old Derek Jeter, who knocked in the first run of the game with a single, and 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who drove in the second with a sacrifice fly, who accounted for all the scoring.
On Bat Day, there were 10,000 bats in the stands but not one dangerous one in the Yankees' lineup, and it clearly infuriated the manager.
"We do have some injuries but you can’t make excuses," Girardi said. "You still need to find a way to get it done. We need to get some guys going who were expected to be big-production guys. These are the guys we have and they got to find a way to get it done."
Giradi was especially incensed by that fourth inning, in which Brett Gardner led off with a triple followed by Jeter's RBI single. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a single, Brian McCann was intentionally walked to load the bases, and that was it for the Yankees' offense.
"Those are the situations we really need to capitalize on and we weren’t able to do that today," Girardi said. "You get a pop up, a sac fly and I’m not sure what the next at-bat was, but we got to be able to score more runs, there’s no doubt about it."
That next at-bat was Brian Roberts looking at a Hughes fastball for strike three. Hughes wound up working eight innings, allowing just those three hits, striking out six and leaving with a win after Robertson blew the game up in the ninth.
"Well, you take [Mark] Teixeira out and [Carlos] Beltran out, those are two middle of the order hitters, it’s a different lineup without those two guys," Girardi said. "But people gotta step up. No one’s going to feel sorry for you. The pitchers are finding a way to step up and everyone has to just contribute."
It was clear who Girardi felt was not contributing.
And by the way, although Robertson, Dellin Betances and Chase Whitley were available in the Yankees' clubhouse after the game, not one player who makes his living with a bat came out to speak with the media. On this day, they let their bats do the talking for them.
Huge effort: Hughes pitched a whale of a game in his first Yankee Stadium appearance as a Twin. Predictably, he was greeted with some mild boos in pregame introductions but soon lulled the crowd, and the Yankees, into silence with the kind of efficient pitching he did not show often enough here.
"The one thing that he stayed away from, that we saw a lot of last year, is he’s stayed away from the long counts," Girardi said. "And his cutter seems to be more consistent this year. Those are the big things. There are a number of occasions he’d be in the sixth and he’d be at 100 pitches and that wasn't the case today."
Hughes needed exactly 100 pitches to get through eight innings today.
"It was a little strange but once I was on the mound everything cleared away and was able to focus on pitching," Hughes (6-1) said. "After the first inning I was just hoping I wouldn’t start walking toward their dugout.”
Incredibly, when Hughes left the mound he was in line to take the loss, but thanks to Robertson's implosion he came away with a surprise win. “I don’t think it means any more than any other start," he said. "This game can be pretty cruel sometimes and I went through that last year. You never take wins for granted, no matter what. I tried to take this as another win and a positive outing. Obviously I have some history here and there was some emotion before the game. But my satisfaction postgame is equal to any other win.”
Welcome back, Nunie: Another ex-Yankee, Eduardo Nunez, had a productive homecoming weekend, driving in a run in Friday night's 6-1 Twins victory, and after coming in as a pinch-runner in the eighth, knocking in two runs with a double off Matt Daley in the ninth inning today. The hit was doubly sweet because the Yankees chose to load the bases in front of him by walking Joe Mauer.
“I know he’s going to walk Mauer because I know how Girardi manages the game," Nunez said. "So I prepared to get a pitch and do my job. I’m not going to do bad in that situation. I know the manager here trusts me and that’s why I’m comfortable pinch-hitting.”