In Major League Baseball’s age of the long ball and launch angles, the New York Yankees were supposed to have one of the most lethal lineups in the game — especially playing in the always-hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
But as the calendar flips to June, the Bronx Bombers have been anything but that. They rank fourth-worst in the majors in runs scored per game, 15th in home runs, and 24th in slugging percentage.
“It’s just not happening for us,” Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames said when trying to explain his team’s struggles.
Prior to Tuesday night’s 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees had scored two runs or fewer in six of their previous seven games. They’ve also homered just six times in their last six games prior to Wednesday night’s action.
The lack of power is the glaring issue, but Thames implores that it’s not just about the long ball.
“We talk about it all the time,” Thames said. “I know people think we’re just preaching hit home runs. That’s not what we’re preaching. We’re preaching, ‘If you get a ball in your zone, you hit it hard.’”
So much for small ball, right?
“Just do what the game calls for,” Thames said. “If a guy is at third base with less than two outs, we’ve got to get that guy in. I put a lot of pride in that and our guys do, too.
“That message is being sent and they know we have to be better at that aspect of the game.”
The Yankees’ struggles have them in a sizable early hole in the AL East, sitting in third-place behind and trailing the division-leading Rays by 4.5 games.
If — or rather when — the switch flips, the Yankees can overcome that deficit quickly. It’s up to Thames though to help them get in the right headspace.
“They’re putting pressure on themselves,” he said. “I’ve been an athlete when that happens. We’ve got to get past that. We’ve got to just trust that we are good baseball players.
“Eventually it’s going to come, but you can’t go into the box and look defeated. If you look defeated, that pitcher on the mound … He’s trying to eat your lunch, so you got to be ready to fight.”