"That should be enough [runs], but as a team, we're in this together and we're going to do what we can," center fielder Johnny Damon said on Monday after the Yankees' 10-8 loss to the Devil Rays. "There's no secret why we've lost the last four games. [The starting pitchers] need to be better, and we as a core need to be better."
Early exits from the starters have plagued the Yankees, and that was the case on Monday when Kei Igawa dug his team into a 7-4 hole, bowing out after just 4 1/3 innings. It was an uncharacteristic start for a left-hander who had strung together back-to-back strong outings and been charged with just two runs in each.
But Monday was decidedly not Igawa's day. The Japanese import surrendered more runs in a single inning than he had in the previous 12 1/3 combined.
"Overall, my control and command was not up to par," he said through a translator. "I couldn't throw the inside fastball. That's the one pitch I couldn't throw today."
And it was the one pitch the Rays jumped on. Igawa tossed a scoreless first inning before linking back-to-back walks with a single to put Tampa Bay on the board. Igawa managed to record two outs in the inning before missing on a 1-0 pitch to Rocco Baldelli, who promptly deposited the ball over the left-center-field wall for a three-run homer.
The southpaw collected himself and held it together over the next inning, but the damage had already been done, and the three-run hole was one out of which New York could not climb. The Rays struck again in the fourth and twice in the fifth before Igawa's hasty exit.
In all, he was tagged for eight hits, seven runs and three walks. He hit the showers, but not before B.J. Upton drove another ball out of the park to push Igawa's runs total to seven.
A-Rod in April
|Alex Rodriguez's stats each year through April 30, as compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau (2007 through April 23):|
"[Igawa] had no command," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He was missing his spots by a long way. You're certainly not going to have success when you don't throw enough strikes and you don't spot the ball.
"His last two starts were good. He should have been on a roll."
For the Yankees, Monday represented the extension of a disturbing trend that didn't exist last season. Yankees starters have lasted longer than six innings just three times in 18 games this year. Two of those outings -- one of 6 1/3 innings; the other, seven -- came from Andy Pettitte, who, with a 1-0 record and a 1.78 ERA, is shouldering the load alone.
The other outing, seven innings, came from Carl Pavano on April 9. Pavano is currently on the disabled list with a strained right forearm.
New York's starters hold a 4-4 record and a 5.65 ERA -- more troubling than the 74-42, 4.54 statistics of a year ago.
A large part of that is that none of the four who notched double-digit wins are currently on the club's active roster. Chien-Ming Wang, who won 19 games, will make his season debut on Tuesday after a pulled right hamstring set him back. Randy Johnson, who won 17 games, is back with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mike Mussina (15 wins) was put on the 15-day DL on April 11 with a strained left hamstring. Jaret Wright (11) is on the Orioles.
The result has been an overtaxed bullpen that's worked an AL-high 74 1/3 innings in 18 games, a frustrated clubhouse and an 8-10 record.
"We can use any kind of lift right now," Damon said. "Our team should not lose four games in a row, but it happens. It just can't happen every night, and our bullpen is being used to death because of it.
"We need our starters to help out our bullpen a little bit more."
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.