NEW YORK — Retrieving his first home run ball as a Yankee was easy enough for Vernon Wells.
All he had to do in exchange for it was sign some autographs and meet the fan who grabbed it, after the Yankees’ 7-4 loss to the Red Sox Wednesday night.
He was fortunate, he said, that that group of fans were still in the stands in the eighth inning for his three-run shot.
“They were going to leave the inning before,” he said.
They would’ve been at the back of the herd.
Between the score and the frigid, gusty weather conditions, fans were filing out early, all but conceding another loss.
It was the first time the Yankees took two straight home losses to start the season since 1982.
They’ve lost the first two games of the year three of the past five seasons, but in a city where back-to-back losses constitutes a big losing streak, there was cause for early concern.
For the second straight game, the Yankees by and large looked lifeless offensively, mustering just six hits off Sox starter Clay Buchholz and only showing vital signs when Buchholz handed it over to the bullpen.
“I think it’s hard no matter what,” Wells said. “You never want to lose games. Obviously, they’re going to come, but we haven’t played good enough baseball to win. That’s the bottom line. We haven’t clicked in all three phases of the game. It’s just a matter of time before we do, but it’d be nice for it to happen sooner than later.”
Already patching up a lineup that had holes where Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez normally would be, seeing starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda essentially get knocked out of the game after being buzzed by a Shane Victorino line drive in the second inning didn’t help matters.
Kuroda hung around for the start of the third inning, but a contusion on his right middle finger made it impossible to command the ball.
After being nailed by Victorino, Kuroda hit Jackie Bradley Jr., walked Jacoby Ellsbury on four pitches, and dotted Daniel Nava before getting the hook.
He lasted 1⅓ innings, his shortest outing as a Yankee, and from there, New York was behind the eight ball.
“During the game I thought I was going to continue to pitch,” Kuroda said through a translator, adding that his hand wasn’t swelling, X-rays showed he was fine, and he intends to see a doctor Thursday. “But against the lefties I wasn’t able to throw that pitch, so I felt like I couldn’t go any more.”
It was another unwanted issue for a team dealing with plenty of them.
“It’s definitely not what we want to see,” Wells said.
Aside from Travis Hafner’s solo shot in the fourth, Wells’s blast was about the only positive for the Yankees, who only advanced one runner past second through the first seven.
Wells saw a first-pitch fastball from Alfredo Aceves and jumped on it.
“He was trying to get ahead on fastballs, and I’m not one to wait around too much,” Wells said.
Between Jon Lester on Opening Day and Buchholz, the Red Sox’ top two pitchers have had the Yankees in handcuffs.
“He’s good,” Wells said of Buchholz. “He always has been. He was throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, and when he does that he’s very effective.’’
Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t sound concerned.
“I thought we swung the bats pretty well off him,” Girardi said. “I thought we hit the ball pretty well — at people. But, yeah, he pitches. He changes his speeds. He cuts his fastball. He sinks it. He throws his changeup, uses his curveball enough. But I was pretty happy with our at-bats even though we didn’t come away with much off them.”
More than anything, he wasn’t ready to listen to any notion that, without some of the high-wattage hitters in the lineup, the sky was falling two games into the season.
“You could waste your time worrying or you could just go out and play every day and see what you can do,” Girardi said. “Obviously, we hope we’re going to get all these guys back. They’re impactful players, but if you start focusing on if you can just hold the fort, that’s a negative thought. Go out and win series and play the best you can play, and when we get guys back we want them to come in and be impactful players. But I still think we have impactful players and we need to get it done.”