Yanks aim to build on productive ninth inning

Yanks aim to build on productive ninth inning

NEW YORK -- With Raul Ibanez at second and the Yankees down three runs in Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Reds, Nick Swisher hit an RBI single that sparked a ninth-inning comeback. While the rally fell a run short of tying the game, the Yankees finally broke out of an 0-for-22 slump with runners in scoring position, giving the team a stroke of confidence for its struggling offense.

"That's not really something we stress a lot about," Swisher said. "I know it's a big stat and people pay a lot of attention to it, but we're more of a play-for-the-home run type of team. Obviously, runners in scoring position, we're looking to drive those guys in. The ninth inning was a good inning for us, and hopefully, we can just snowball it."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wasn't quite as confident his players weren't pressing with runners on base. He said he empathized with his players' frustrations, but he was certain that the end to his team's struggles was near.

"I'm sure guys think about it," Girardi said. "They're asked about it every day. I'm asked about it every day. I'm sure it's in their mind. Maybe what we were able to do in the ninth will start to turn things around a little bit, because we got some hits in those situations. Sure, it's frustrating, because hitters know. Hitters know when they come up with runners in scoring position."

The ninth inning of Saturday's game was an exercise in timely hitting until Curtis Granderson sent a ground ball to first baseman Joey Votto for the final out with runners on second and third.

Heading in to the ninth, the Reds trotted out closer Sean Marshall. Raul Ibanez led off with a double to right field, and he was driven in by Swisher's single. After Russell Martin struck out, pinch-hitter Andruw Jones and second baseman Jayson Nix kept the comeback alive with back-to-back singles, bringing Swisher around to score and drawing the Yankees within one run. But the timely hitting would end there, as Derek Jeter grounded into a fielder's choice before Granderson's groundout to end the game.

"They bring their closer in, and we get a couple of runs off him," Swisher said. "They bring somebody else in. We have our boy Curt up there with runners on second and third, 3-2 count. That's the kind of game you want to play in. You want to be the hero in that spot. Sometimes it doesn't always work out like that."

Martin said he never thinks about numbers when he steps up to the plate, he just looks for a pitch he can hit. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez said the offense had to focus on scoring at least four runs a game as a benchmark and needed to simplify its approach.

The Yankees have gone at least 20 at-bats without plating a runner in scoring position for 10 straight seasons. In their last 55 at-bats with runners in scoring position, New York has five hits. The Yanks had five runners left on base today, but they drove in two who were in scoring position.

"We just didn't get the last hit that we needed to try to put them away," Girardi said. "It's good that we were able to come back, but it's frustrating that you get so close and you lose."

Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.