The reason the Yankees won 101 games in the regular season last year was their never-say-die offense. No opponent's lead was ever safe because anyone in the lineup was capable of beating you at any time.
The Yankees brought back seven regulars this season, including all the big names from last year. But through 22 games, that come-from-behind magic has virtually vanished. As Manager Joe Torre said, his hitters are "sputtering."
Kevin Brown pitched well enough to win for the first time this season Thursday night, but the Yankees scored only one run for the second consecutive night. The result was a 3-1 loss, the Yankees' fourth defeat in six games, dropping their record to 9-13.
"The only thing I sense with our offense is that we're trying a little bit too hard with the bats," Torre said. "Everyone is trying to do it themselves."
Aside from the lone run the Yankees scored -- Hideki Matsui drove in Derek Jeter with a double in the fifth -- the Yankees did not advance anyone to third. They had eight hits and four walks but stranded 10 runners.
"I know the ability these guys have," Torre said. "It's just a matter of stringing something together. We haven't been able to do that."
The players wholeheartedly agreed. "We have to find ways to score runs," Jeter said.
Said Gary Sheffield: "We know what we're capable of doing. We need to do it on a consistent basis. . . . Until we get it going, we need to scrap for everything we can."
That the Yankees kept it close was a positive, considering how shaky Brown (0-3) has been in the early innings. He used a different pregame routine, courtesy of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, in which he sat down in the middle of his warm-ups in the bullpen to simulate the time between innings.
Brown gave up three runs in seven innings, easily his best of three outings, but said he felt no different after Stottlemyre's changes to his pregame bullpen session. "I wouldn't say my stuff tonight was any better than the previous two games," he said.
Brown gave up two runs in the third and a run in the fourth.
"We're putting too much stress, too much pressure on the pitchers to be perfect," Torre said.
The Yankees know they need to do better.
"Just have to fight their way through it and find that comfort zone," Torre said. "Right now it's a struggle."