Hank Steinbrenner: Yankees hitters need to 'wake up'

NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi hadn't heard Hank Steinbrenner's searing comments about the New York Yankees. The manager didn't have to guess what they were about.

The team's co-chairman said Wednesday that the Yankees' lack of offensive production was "getting ridiculous" during a key stretch in the season, with upcoming series against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, the two clubs New York is chasing in the AL East.

After beating the New York Mets 9-0 in the second game of a doubleheader last Friday, the Yankees had scored just seven runs and batted .172 in losing three of four.

"We've got to start hitting," Steinbrenner said from Tampa, Fla. "They've got to start waking up. They've shown in flashes what they can still do."

They did so again Wednesday night.

The Yankees pounded out 16 hits in an 18-7 rout of the Texas Rangers, the most runs scored since last July. Every starter got a hit, and seven of them drove in runs -- highlighted by a grand slam from Jason Giambi and a three-run homer from Alex Rodriguez.

The scoring outburst came on the heels of a pair of one-run losses to the Rangers that had Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman also bemoaning the offense.

"We need to start hitting," Girardi said demurely. "I will say that."

Girardi already had shuffled his lineup when he learned of Steinbrenner's comments.

Melky Cabrera, hitless in a career-high 19 at-bats, was replaced in center field by youngster Brett Gardner, who had his first career hit and RBI during a season-best nine-run seventh inning. Johnny Damon was in left field in place of injured slugger Hideki Matsui, and he came through with three hits and two RBIs.

Steinbrenner said he'd been surprised by the club's inconsistent offense, but noted that it's been an area of concern for Cashman.

"Even when I was worried about the pitching earlier -- starting pitching is the most important thing of all -- but Brian would keep telling me, 'Yes, but I worried about the hitting," Steinbrenner said. "That was Brian's biggest concern even as we were reconstructing the pitching. We all know they're better than that."

Cashman stood behind the batting cages about an hour before the first pitch Wednesday as his high-priced club took extra practice. He said he hadn't spoken with Steinbrenner, either, but agreed that the team needs to start scoring runs.

"The strength of this team more than anything is supposed to be the offense, and it's been the weakness right now for us," Cashman said. "We're not getting young in this season, so we needed to start yesterday."

The GM said the next 10 days will play a big part in the moves he makes before the trade deadline at the end of the month. The Yankees are 7½ games behind division-leading Tampa Bay and 3½ back of the Red Sox. After hosting both clubs, they'll travel to Toronto for three games before the All-Star break.

"Not just this one series, but maybe the next couple series is going to be pivotal," Steinbrenner said. "We can definitely still make a run at it."

Cashman was unwilling to pin the struggles on injuries that have forced the Yankees to continually shuffle their lineup. Cashman said Matsui might not be back ready before the break as he works back from a sore knee, and the infield depth took a hit Tuesday night when Shelley Duncan separated a shoulder during a game at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

"From ownership's perspective, they've put some big iron out on the table," Cashman said. "We know what the DNA of the team is supposed to be and we're not living up to that."

Neither Cashman nor Girardi was sure what Steinbrenner was talking about when he decried outside distractions surrounding his team. But Alex Rodriguez has been making headlines on Web sites and in the tabloids over the past few days for allegedly spending time at Madonna's Manhattan apartment.

Rodriguez wasn't available for comment Wednesday. He has refused to address the reports.

"I don't know. Maybe a little less outside distractions and a little more concentrating and they'll start hitting better," Steinbrenner said. "I thought they would go on a consistent tear, and it hasn't happened yet."