Bronx Bombers? Next case. Right now, the New York Yankees are just bombing out.
Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at the SkyDome continued the Yankees' alarming September slide. The Yanks aren't in danger of blowing the American League East (they lead it by 5 1/2 games with 12 left), but they look far from a team capable of winning a third straight World Series either.
"It's a tough time for us right now overall," said pitcher David Cone, who endured another beating to add to his season-long nightmare. "We need somebody to step up, either a pitcher to have a big performance or somebody on the offense to have a big night."
The Yankees have lost four straight games (one shy of their season high) and six of their last seven. They have been outscored, 57-18, in those seven and have just 14 hits in the last three.
Culprits were numerous in this one. Cone (4-13) gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings and was essentially throwing batting practice to Toronto hitters. The dislocation of his non-pitching shoulder suffered Sept. 5 at Kansas City is hampering his limited arsenal even more.
"I really didn't have much of a fastball and I was left to rely on the breaking ball," Cone said. "Eventually, it caught up with me. My fastball was really flat. I was pitching backwards with all the offspeed stuff. Kind of the story of my year."
"He just didn't look like he had good stuff," added manager Joe Torre. "I know he's frustrated. He was picking with the breaking ball and he didn't look like he was proud of his fastball. It's tough to pitch without a fastball."
It's tough to pitch when you have no support, too. The Yankees had just four hits during the first six innings.
Torre said he saw more energy from his club than he did in Tuesday's 16-3 thrashing. The only possible thing he could have been referring to were the two-hit nights of Derek Jeter and Chuck Knoblauch, who snapped skids of 0 for 11 and 0 for 16, respectively.
"When you work hard, eventually good things can happen," Torre said. "Tonight I did notice a difference. The final score doesn't show it but I just feel better about the team. I felt the energy level up a bit."
Dwight Gooden pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Cone, but the bullpen is otherwise iffy before the Yanks get to closer Mariano Rivera.
Ramiro Mendoza (shoulder) is undergoing surgery today in Birmingham, Ala., and is out for the year. Veteran lefty Mike Stanton (2-3, 4.29) has been erratic. Jason Grimsley (3-2, 4.60, 39 walks and 14 wild pitches) remains as unpredictable as he was for the Buffalo Bisons in '98.
Torre would like another left-hander to join Stanton on the 10-man postseason staff, but that would mean taking a youngster like Randy Choate (5.02 ERA) or Ted Lilly (8.31).
Right now, the poster boy for the Yanks' frustration is first baseman Tino Martinez. He's 0 for 21 and was ejected in the eighth after arguing balls and strikes with umpire Tim Timmons.
"We'll be all right. I don't think anybody is really panicking," insisted Martinez. "We just have to play our game. We come back again (tonight) and have that attitude and we'll be fine."
At least the Yankees are starting to get healthy. Center fielder Bernie Williams had missed 12 of 15 games due to calf and rib cage problems, but has played pain-free both nights here. Paul O'Neill (hip pointer) will miss his seventh straight game tonight, but is responding well to cortisone shots and will be available this weekend.
The Yanks need him. They're just about out of time for catching the White Sox to earn the American League's best record. Right now, their focus has to be simply on holding off the West Division winner, be it Seattle or Oakland, to keep home-field advantage.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, passed Boston in the wild-card standings but remain three games out of the lead as Cleveland grabbed the top spot back from the Athletics.
Toronto right fielder Dave Martinez drove in three runs for the second straight night. His two-run double was the key hit in a four-run fourth. The Jays have won three straight and have scored 37 runs in those three games.
The Jays expect David Wells (19-6) to be able to take the mound when the series concludes tonight at 7. Orlando Hernandez (12-11) will try to snap the Yankees' funk.