BOSTON -- It has been obvious for months now that many Yankees fans have grown impatient with their team's lack of offense.
Well, Friday night it sounded as if that group had increased by at least one -- a very important one.
"I think this offense is capable of doing a lot more," New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after his team lost, rather quietly, to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park by the most un-Fenway-like score of 4-3.
Girardi volunteered this opinion in answer to a question regarding starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who pitched well enough to win most games in this bandbox of a ballpark, as John Updike so famously called it. And he said it with the same tone an exasperated father uses with a bright kid who brings home a bad report card.
"It’s just putting things together, putting hits together," Girardi said. "We’ve struggled at times this year but I just believe we’re capable of doing more. Hopefully it starts tomorrow."
The problem is, the Yankees are running out of tomorrows. And after a while, a manager who continues to predict his offense will come around any day now starts to sound an awful lot like the boy who cried wolf.
This loss was humiliating in many ways, not the least of which was the fact that it came at the hands of a team that quite publicly raised the white flag on its 2014 season by trading away three-fifths of its starting rotation.
Meanwhile the Yankees continue to propose that they are still in the playoff race. But this defeat was their fifth in their past six games, virtually negating them winning seven of eight on their most recent homestand.
Three of the past four losses have come against last-place teams -- games that were supposed to be gimmes. These were games that were supposed to allow the Yankees to close some ground on, or at least not lose any, to the division-leading Baltimore Orioles. Instead, the Yanks have dropped from three games out a week ago to six games out. What's worse, they've fallen behind three other teams, and 3.5 games back, in the race for the second AL wild-card spot.
And all because, once again, the Yankees' offense could not produce -- this time against a right-hander named Anthony Ranaudo who was making his major league debut, pressed into service only because the Red Sox had shipped off Jon Lester, John Lackey and Felix Doubront in a trade-deadline fire sale.
The Yanks managed three runs -- two on solo homers by Carlos Beltran (No. 13) and Derek Jeter (first in five weeks), and a third on an RBI single by Beltran that scored Jacoby Ellsbury, who had walked, stolen second base and reached third on an infield out.
And that was it. In a ballpark where five-run leads never seem safe, one run was too much for the Yankees to overcome.
It is safe to assume that is why Girardi -- normally so protective of his players, and this year especially -- went out of his way to volunteer the rather obvious point that his offense has been a huge disappointment this season. The surprise was not what was said, but who was saying it.
At first the manager tried to offer the usual excuses: Ranaudo was a guy we'd never seen before. We hit balls hard but right at people. Yada, yada, yada.
But when asked if Ranaudo was doing anything out of the ordinary to shut down his hitters, Girardi could not have been more blunt.
"No, not necessarily," he said. "He used his fastball a lot tonight. At times it was up, at times it was down. When it’s down it has pretty good downhill angle. Nothing tricky."
And when asked if he still believes his team is good enough to contend, Girardi said yes -- with one significant qualification. "Obviously, it takes everybody," he said. "You have to swing the bats."
He went on to talk about how he still believes in the offense, mainly because, "These guys have track records."
But track records, of course, are a euphemism for past performance, which often is no indicator of future results. Here we are in August, and the Yankees still don't have a single player hitting over .300, nor anyone with 20 home runs. Their top RBI man, Mark Teixeira, is tied for 27th in the American League with 50, some 33 behind league leader Jose Abreu, a rookie.
And it is getting harder and harder to believe that at any point this season, this offense will begin to click and produce the way it was expected to when GM Brian Cashman spent $283 million to shore it up this winter.
"I feel like we're swinging the bats better than what they're showing; some hard-hit balls that they made good plays on in a couple of big situations," said Chase Headley, one of the more thoughtful and articulate additions to the Yankees clubhouse this season. "Yeah, we're capable of doing more. I think we will do more. I don't think [the score] probably was indicative of how we swung the bats tonight."
Headley, of course, is new here. Girardi is not. Having watched this offense for two-thirds of a season now, even this most patient of men, and most forgiving of managers, sounds like he is starting to doubt whether nights like Friday will ever end.