The answers are becoming as empty as the at-bats for the Yankees' $209-million lineup. And unlike last season, when a rash of injuries forced Joe Girardi to patch together lineups on a daily basis, it's the big guys who aren't delivering.
It happened again Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium to the disappointment of 35,866 fans who watched Rays lefty ace David Price overpower the home team in a 2-1 victory. It marked the fourth straight loss for the Yankees, their eighth in the past 10 games, and it dropped them to .500 at the latest point in the season ever under Girardi. The last time they were at or below .500 this late was in 2007 under Joe Torre.
Comparing this season to last, Girardi said, "It's more surprising for sure because of the names you're writing on the lineup card. Last year, we used a lot of different players and guys that didn't have big track records.
"These guys have proven track records. These are the guys we have, and these are the guys that have to get it done . . . I don't think you forget how to hit in a year.''
Price (7-7) did a pretty good job of making it seem that way, allowing four hits and striking out nine. The Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Price threw 119 pitches through seven innings and still was throwing strikes of 90-plus mph at the knees in his final inning.
"He was good,'' said designated hitter Carlos Beltran, who popped weakly to center with Derek Jeter on second base and Mark Teixeira on first and only one out in the sixth. "He's just one of the best pitchers in the game. On this homestand, we have faced two of the best . Today, he was dealing.''
The Yankees' ineptitude at the plate wasted a tremendous effort by Hiroki Kuroda (5-6), who pitched eight innings, allowing nine hits and striking out seven. Kuroda became the first Yankee this season other than Mashiro Tanaka to throw eight complete innings.
The Rays' Matt Joyce led off the fourth with a single and went to third on a single by Evan Longoria. After striking out James Loney, Kuroda got unlucky when Logan Forsythe's broken-bat single hit the mound and bounced through the middle to drive in Joyce for a 1-0 lead.
That was short-lived as 40-year-old Derek Jeter delivered the Yankees' first hit in the fourth with a leadoff double that bounced just short of the wall in straightaway center and tied him with Lou Gehrig for the franchise record of 534 doubles. Jeter moved to third when Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a single and scored on a failed pickoff attempt of Ellsbury, when shortstop Ben Zobrist's throw hit Ellsbury in a rundown.
But Kuroda started the sixth with a 75-mph curve to Loney, who waited and launched it into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center for a 2-1 lead. Jeter tried to provide a spark for a rally with his leadoff single in the sixth. He stole second, but the Yankees couldn't get him home.
"You've got to find a way to get him over, get him in and someone come up with a big hit,'' Girardi said.
Leadoff man Brett Gardner said the fans have "a right to expect better'' from this high-priced lineup.
"Today was the first day of the second half,'' Gardner added, "and it's definitely past time for us to get things going.''