Runs hard to come by of late for Yanks

Wang solid, but lineup held in check

ATLANTA -- The visiting clubhouse at Turner Field had a deathly quiet murmur immediately after the final out was recorded on Tuesday, just a short walk up the carpeted walkway from the playing field.

It was appropriate, considering the Yankees' offensive silence.

A switch to a different National League entry proved to be no remedy for the slumbering bats of the Bombers, who continued their June swoon with a 4-0 loss to the Braves on a steamy Tuesday that left them desperate to escape this troubled stretch of Interleague Play.

"We're trying," said catcher Jorge Posada, who struck out four times for a New York lineup that left 11 men on base. "Offensively, we're not clicking. We hit some balls hard at people, and when we seem to get a rally going, we're not executing."

Much of the hand-wringing leading into the contest centered upon New York starter Chien-Ming Wang, winless since the last time he swung a bat in a Major League game -- last June 15, when he injured his right foot running the bases in Houston, an injury which proved season-ending and perhaps career-altering.

Though Wang was again denied the elusive victory his confidence thirsts for, touched for three third-inning runs in a 62-pitch outing that was abbreviated by the Senior Circuit rules, neither his pitching nor his running was the real issue.

"It's baseball. It's how it is," Wang said. "I'm just trying to do my job."

As the Yankees lost for the ninth time in 13 games, once again, it was the lineup that couldn't get the job done -- a headache that has manager Joe Girardi considering shifting the order for a club that, as recently as June 8, was in sole possession of first place in the American League East. They left Turner Field trailing the Red Sox by five games.

"History tells you that you're going to break out of it, and we need to start tomorrow," Girardi said. "This has not been a good stretch that we've been in the last couple of weeks. We need to start hitting with runners on."

The Yankees left nine men on through five innings against Braves starter Tommy Hanson, and Wang was a cameo player, bouncing back to the mound to strand two men in the second inning.

But he had a free excuse -- namely, the Yankees were actually relieved that Wang's trot down to first base was uneventful and injury-free, despite the two runners left aboard. There was less of a hall pass for Nick Swisher, who slapped the first pitch from Hanson into a bases-loaded fielder's choice that ended the fourth.

"That's the sign of a pretty good pitcher," manager Bobby Cox said of the ability of Hanson, who has held opponents scoreless over his past 15 2/3 innings, to work out of trouble. "You get in those types of jams and you don't panic. You end up making a great pitch to get a hitter out."

"There's no question [we're overanxious]," said Alex Rodriguez, who is now in a 1-for-23 skid that dropped his average to .207. "When the team is not hitting, that's also contagious. Guys want to come out and get the big hit, and hit the ball in the gap and hit home runs. The thing we have to do is just continue to work hard and be patient."

It was that kind of night for the Yankees, who made Hanson sweat in a five-walk, four-hit outing, but were unable to deal him the crushing blow. Cox finally saw enough in the sixth after Hanson had two men aboard with one out, but Peter Moylan kept the trend going by inducing Derek Jeter to hit into a double play.

"We need to get hits -- there's really no secret formula," Jeter said. "We've just got to get guys on base and score some runs, especially early, to help out our pitching staff."

As three Atlanta relievers locked down the win, New York's only offensive highlight came in the form of a historical footnote: Jeter had earlier logged the 425th double of his career in the third, surpassing Babe Ruth for sole possession of fourth place on the Yankees' all-time list.

It was small consolation for Jeter, who would be left at third base after that third-inning hit when A-Rod struck out and Robinson Cano flied out.

"We just haven't been playing well," Jeter said. "That's pretty much it. You always try to dissect everything and break it down, but we didn't hit, we haven't hit and that's why we've been losing. It's nothing deeper than that."

Hanson was the seventh straight pitcher the Yankees faced for the first time, and it is a span they have fared 2-5 over, including 1-4 in the past five.

"I don't necessarily think that's an excuse," Girardi said. "If you get a good pitch to hit, our guys are going to hit it. I don't think that really has a whole lot to do with it. When you start making excuses, that's when you really get in trouble."

Atlanta's support off Wang came in the form of Brian McCann's run-scoring double off the left-field wall and Garret Anderson's two-run double up the gap in right-center field.

The pitches, the Yankees insisted, were not poor ones. McCann appeared to dig out an offering that was not even a strike, punishing Wang after Rodriguez could not snare a Yunel Escobar hit to his left that the third baseman usually comes up with when granted a healthier right hip.

"I dove for it and thought I had a good read on it," Rodriguez said. "The last few days, I've felt much better. My legs feel like they're moving around better. He hit it hard, I dove and it got through."

The inning continued as Posada pumped a throw to second base from his knees on an Escobar steal attempt, thinking better of it and caught halfway as the ball sailed into center field for an error.

Chipper Jones walked to set up the back-to-back McCann and Anderson doubles, and it was enough by the time McCann added a solo homer in the eighth off David Robertson to round out the scoring.

"I thought he made some good pitches to McCann and he hit the ball the opposite way, and he made a good pitch to Anderson that found the gap," Posada said of Wang. "Other than those two pitches, that was the ballgame."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.