NEW YORK -- And the word is "ugly."
Joe Girardi used it in the first answer of his postgame interview Monday night after the Yankees lost 4-2 to the Texas Rangers, the worst team in the American League. He used it after a game in which the Yankees committed five errors -- which really should have been six -- and managed just two runs off a rookie pitcher who had been allowing more than 10 runs a game. In fact, it was so ugly, he used it twice.
“It was an ugly game on our part," Girardi said. "Our defense was bad, we didn’t swing the bats particularly well. We made the pitcher work hard the first two innings and then he ends up getting into the eighth inning. It was an ugly game.”
That about says it all about the game. But what does it say about a team that can sweep the Cincinnati Reds, who are actually pretty good, and come out the next night looking like a bunch of amateurs against a team that is truly bad?
If nothing else, it reminds you that this Yankees team is erratic to the point of near-schizophrenia, and that nothing it does on any given day should be taken as an indicator of what it is capable of on any other day.
In other words, the 2014 Yankees simply cannot be trusted.
Monday night, they didn't get great pitching out of Shane Greene, but they certainly got good enough pitching to beat the Rangers, who had lost 24 of their previous 28 games and were a full 20 games under .500 coming in.
Greene left with two outs in the sixth inning, two runners on and a game tied 2-2. Within minutes, he was losing 4-2, because Matt Thornton, acquired in the offseason specifically to retire left-handed hitters, allowed RBI singles to both hitters he faced, both of whom are lefties. In fact, lefties are now hitting better against Thornton (.276) than righties (.257).
Asked why he went to Thornton in that spot, Girardi answered, with impeccable logic, "Because that's our guy to get lefties out."
In other words, he had no choice. It almost made you feel sorry for him.
Same thing for his infield, which on a nightly basis shows about as much mobility as the figurines of Derek Jeter distributed to the crowd before the game. Greene made three inexplicable errors, twice throwing the ball high over fill-in first baseman Kelly Johnson's head. Brian Roberts mishandled a flip from Jeter on a force out that might have become -- although it probably wouldn't have become -- an inning-ending double play. He also was spared another error when a hot smash by Elvis Andrus went off his glove for a single. Both misplays resulted in Rangers runs. And in the seventh, Jeter himself threw wide of first, pulling Johnson off the bag -- a play the injured Mark Teixeira surely would have made -- but it wound up not costing the Yankees a run. And to be completely fair, the first RBI hit allowed by Thornton was a casualty of the shift, dribbling through a vacated area where Jeter normally would have been. But those are the kind of things you do when you're concerned about the range of your infielders.
Still, the infield play has been shoddy all season, and with an offense that struggles to score four runs a game -- its average is 3.99 runs per game -- the Yankees can't afford to be giving away outs, let alone runs.
Asked if the play of his infield concerned him, Girardi said, “There’s going to be physical errors. I don’t really think we made mental errors tonight. They were physical errors and those happen. It’s unfortunate that they all happened in one game, in a sense. Maybe it’s not [unfortunate], maybe you get them out of the way. I didn’t really see any mental errors, they were physical.”
It seemed as if the manager was saying that as long as his players' heads were in the game, it didn't really bother him that their bodies couldn't seem to keep up.
But what he was really saying was the same thing he had said about Thornton: What would you like me to do about it?
These are the players he has been dealt, and unless reinforcements come between now and July 31, this is the hand he is forced to play.
As for the offense, aside from Jacoby Ellsbury's fourth-inning home run, it was typically punchless, managing just four hits, one of them an infield single, off Miles Mikolas, who had amassed a 10.05 ERA in three previous big league starts. There was a lot of first-pitch swinging, a lot of feeble at-bats and very few hard-hit balls.
The three key moments of the game were all offensive failures -- a Jeter double play with the bases loaded to end the fifth; a fly out to center by Ellsbury, representing the tying run, to end the eighth after staking themselves to a 3-0 lead; and the last out of the game, a fly out to shallow left by pinch hitter Yangervis Solarte with two runners on in the ninth.
If the Yankees are going to make any kind of a run this season, they absolutely have to win games like this against teams as bad as the Rangers. Technically, the Yankees are still very much alive, both in the AL East race, where they trail the Baltimore Orioles by 3 1/2 games, and in the wild-card race.
"If we’re going to catch Baltimore, you need to win series," Girardi said. "And when you lose the first game like we did tonight, it makes it a lot more difficult."
There were a lot of four-letter words Yankees fans could have come up with to describe this one, but for once, the manager came up with the best one of all: Ugly.
And certainly not worth looking back at.
Notes: The last time the Yankees made five errors in a nine-inning game? Sixteen years ago in a 9-4 loss to the Twins in Minnesota on Aug. 20, 1998. ... Greene was the first Yankee to make three errors in a game since Ramiro Pena accomplished the hat trick on June 22, 2011. ... The four earned runs allowed by Yankee pitchers tonight snapped a six-game streak of holding opponents to three ERs or fewer, going back to July 11. ... The Rangers now have beaten the Yankees three times in a row at Yankee Stadium and six of their last nine overall. ... On the bright side, Ellsbury has six hits in his last eight at-bats and is batting .500 (8-for-16 with 2 HRs) on the homestand.