NEW YORK -- It was understandable when the Indians' Corey Kluber, one of the American League's top pitchers this season, put the Yankees' bats to sleep Saturday. But it was quite puzzling, if not frustrating for the 46,152 in attendance, to see Carlos Carrasco produce the same result Sunday.
Making his first start since April 25, Carrasco, who was moved to the bullpen after just four starts this year, limited the Yankees to only two hits over five innings and 77 pitches. The Indians' bullpen then tossed four solid frames, and the Yankees dropped the rubber match to the Tribe, 4-1.
"We ran into some pretty good pitching this week," said manager Joe Girardi. "That's part of the game. You're going to go through that as an offense."
After a loud 10 runs on Friday, the Yankees' offense was baffled again by Cleveland's pitching staff, which produced 19 straight scoreless innings against them, dating back to the last two innings of Friday's game. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo homer in the ninth to break that streak, but the Yankees' fifth hit of the day was too little, too late.
"We haven't really been great all year," said Mark Teixeira, back in the lineup after missing some time with an injured left pinky. "We just need to try and do our best and scratch runs when we can and just pick it up a little bit."
Bad hitting, just like good hitting, can be contagious, and as the season hits the homestretch, the Yankees still seem confident that their recent poor offensive showings aren't symptoms of something much worse than a small slump. As Girardi attested afterward, these streaks can happen, but turning them around requires a broader perspective.
"If you've been in the game long enough, you know it's going to happen and you've got to deal with it," said Girardi. "I think we got caught up with seeing teams score 900 runs in the past. That's not happening. With things that have gone on in the game, with improved defense and the improved bullpens and pitching today, you're just not seeing as many runs."
To skeptics, that might seem like a tired excuse for the team's struggles, especially with all of its spending and acquisitions. But even hitting coach Kevin Long wasn't ready to debunk that theory in regards to the team's largely unmet offensive expectations this year.
"These guys are human," said Long. "It's not like they're going out not trying to compete or they're not prepared or they're not ready. It's a part of the game. If [the Indians'] starters throw the way they did, then that's just the way it goes.
"If runs are down in baseball, then that's a fact."
Sunday's lack of production made starter Hiroki Kuroda's early blemishes appear insurmountable by the time he exited in the fifth inning. For the second straight start, Kuroda, who allowed at least one baserunner in each inning of work, began to tire around 80 pitches. That came to a head with two outs in the fifth inning when Kuroda walked his last batter, Yan Gomes, who had two RBIs, with the bases loaded for the third run of the day.
"I'm good enough to get on the mound out there," said Kuroda, who allowed Michael Brantley to touch him for RBIs in the first and third innings. "Everybody look around. It's hard to find players 100 percent physically. So you've got to be able to respond with whatever you've got."
If there was any positive, it was rookie Bryan Mitchell, who made his Major League debut by tossing the last two scoreless innings.
"It's a big relief to get out there for the first time," Mitchell said. "I was nervous but ready at the same time. ... I was just glad I could throw strikes and get through two innings today."
After a second-inning single from Stephen Drew, the combination of Carrasco, C.C. Lee and Scott Atchison retired the next 15 Yankees hitters before Teixeira singled up the middle in the seventh. Keeping in line with the day, Carlos Beltran rolled over the next pitch for an inning-ending double play.
"You've got to give those guys credit," said Teixeira. "We've faced some really good pitchers the last two days, and they just got the best of us."
The Yankees know that for a homestand that started promisingly -- taking three of four from Detroit -- it ended on a sour note. They also know they've still been in nearly every game since the All-Star break, something they will take with them on the road against two tough division rivals in Baltimore and Tampa Bay, where they will hope to reignite their offense.
"We have to win at home, but we were hoping for better. You've got to move on," said Girardi. "[Baltimore] is a team we're chasing [and] it's very important we win a series. We have to play extremely well, because they're playing well."
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.