PHOENIX — That the Yankees have 17 wins given all their injuries — a major-league-leading 13 players are on the injured list — feels like a minor miracle. Even with a depleted roster, the Yankees have beaten healthier squads such as the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants.
There is a common theme, though, among those opponents: None were expected to contend, and all have losing records. While the Yankees didn’t choose their schedule, an inverse trend has emerged: After Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees are 0-5 against teams with winning records, including a three-game sweep by the Houston Astros in April and a two-game sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks.
“Bottom line in this league: Wins are hard to come by,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “You have to play well to do it. Obviously with our situation, we’ve got a lot of guys do a lot of really good things to help us win games. Over time, that’ll work itself out.”
Five games are a fraction of the marathon-like season. But a true test of the Yankees’ resolve will continue this weekend as the Yankees play three more series in a row against teams with winning records.
After one day off, the Yankees will resume play on Friday for a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins, who are off to a hot start. Then come the Seattle Mariners, who were supposed to be rebuilding but began the season well before a recent skid. The stakes will be even higher when the Yankees travel to face the Tampa Bay Rays, a division rival that entered Wednesday with the best record in the American League.
“It’s another challenge, man,” said Yankees first baseman Luke Voit, who smashed his team-leading ninth home run on Wednesday and noted afterward that it was good to be home after a tiring three-city, nine-game West Coast road trip.
“This is a fun team,” he continued. “All the guys on this team have accepted it, so I’m excited for it.”
Voit has been a consistent force in the Yankees’ battered lineup, but he alone couldn’t power the Yankees to victory on Wednesday. Masahiro Tanaka endured another uneven start, striking out six but allowing three runs over four innings. In both games against the Diamondbacks, the Yankees couldn’t top their opponent’s three runs.
Some of the frustration for the Yankees showed on Wednesday. Frustrated by an earlier out call at second base that was strangely upheld by replay review, Boone was ejected from the game in the seventh inning for his reaction to another play.
It started when Tyler Wade thought a pitch hit him. Boone, without a challenge remaining, asked the umpires to re-evaluate the play. On the way back to the dugout, Boone said, he made a “pretty harmless” comment to the home plate umpire Paul Emmel, who threw him out.
Some help for that frustration may come in time for this weekend’s series against the Twins, as a few of the team’s regulars could get back on the field. It would certainly be a welcome change for a team that has been patching things together all season; nearly every game has involved an update of where each injured player stands in his recovery.
Infielder D.J. LeMahieu, who aggravated a bruised knee on Sunday, sat out Tuesday and was available only in emergency situations on Wednesday despite his recent improvement. “It’s pretty sore, but I think I’m really close,” he said before Wednesday’s game.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who has been out since April 4 with a left calf strain, won’t be able to help. He left a minor league rehabilitation game on Wednesday out of precaution with tightness in the same calf, a team spokesman said.
Third baseman Miguel Andujar, who has been rehabilitating a labral tear in his throwing shoulder since April 1 in hopes of avoiding season-ending surgery, played in the same game Tulowitzki exited.
Throughout the road trip, Boone had been saying that Andujar could return as soon as Friday. But before Wednesday’s game, Boone said the Yankees would discuss Andujar’s return on Thursday’s scheduled day off, barring any issues.
Third baseman Gio Urshela, who was hit on the left hand by a pitch on Sunday and didn’t start on Tuesday, was back in the lineup on Wednesday and went 1 for 4. His stellar defense at third base and improved swing have been crucial for the Yankees.
Before Wednesday’s game, Boone suggested that he had already kicked around ideas on how to apportion playing time and that he could see both Andujar and Urshela playing. He said Andujar, who spent the winter and spring trying to improve his defensive weaknesses, isn’t being considered for other positions, but Urshela has played all over the infield in professional baseball.
“We’ll just kind of see when we get players back, if that starts to happen,” Boone said. “Things have a way of working themselves out.”