Location was the main problem Saturday for Vidal Nuño, the pitcher whose fastball kept rising then sailing out of the park, and for the Yankees, who have been trying to find a better starter but can't locate one.
"This is what we have," Joe Girardi said after a 6-1 loss to the Orioles was fueled by three home runs against Nuño. "As I've said, it's not like there's just starting pitchers lying around out there."
The manager added that he is planning no changes in the rotation. Thus, there will be more of Nuño (1-4), whose own personal cold front overcame the Yankees' recent hot streak. They had won four in a row, mostly in rousing fashion with a makeshift crew of starting pitchers. They ran into a wall as the Orioles kept hitting balls over the fence.
"It's a fastball-hitting team," said Nuño, who has allowed 13 home runs in eight appearances (one in relief) at Yankee Stadium this season. "Pretty much, these porches are short, but it's part of the game. It's just frustrating at times that when they get the ball up in the air, they have a chance to get it out. It is what it is."
The pitcher, who has received his chance because CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova are on the disabled list, acknowledged that he is pitching for his job.
"Every outing, every inning," said the lefthander whose only win occurred May 7. "I'm on a roller coaster right now. I need to have a steady peak. I work at it every day. It's that one or two innings, they're getting the job done instead of me. They're getting two or three runs."
But if the Yankees had a better option, they would have exercised it by now. Girardi said: "Right now, this is our rotation and this is what it will be. We'll just continue to plow forward and hopefully these guys' rehabs get going. But right now, this is what it is."
So unless someone drops from the sky, the Yankees will live with outings such as the 6 1/3 innings they got from Nuño Saturday. "We didn't score any runs today, so it looked worse than it was," the manager said.
In fact, the Yankees have gone 5-7 in Nuño's starts. But they have become accustomed to winning games that fellow fill-ins David Phelps and Chase Whitley start.
Sabathia, optimistic about his rehab start in Tampa next Saturday, said Saturday: "Those guys have stepped in there. Any time you lose three of five starters, it really puts the team in a bad situation, but these guys have been able to step in and keep us afloat."
Nuño has repeatedly cited the location of his fastball, which he had hoped would sink. Against Adam Jones in the first inning, the final location was well into the leftfield stands. Nelson Cruz made it 3-0 in the third with a two-run shot to right and Steve Pearce hit a two-run blast in the fifth for a 5-1 lead.
Aside from Mark Teixeira's home run in the fourth, the Yankees mounted nothing against starter Bud Norris (7-5), who left after five with tightness in his right groin, or relievers Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter.
So the focus remained on the pitcher who vowed to spend all week watching video and working with Yankees catchers on his location. "I go out there, I always have fun, I always try to give it my all and the outcome sometimes is not positive," Nuño said. "But this is the big leagues. If you leave something that's a tick off, they're going to hit it and sometimes they're going to hit it far."