August 14th, 2012
The strange thing about Hiroki Kuroda’s no-hit bid Tuesday night was that while the Rangers went six innings without a hit the Yankees went just as long without a point. The teams that are 1-2 in runs scored in the American League (Texas 580, Yanks 577) were scoreless through the sixth.
So for all of his brilliance, Kuroda was always one pitch from disaster. Rangers lefthander Matt Harrison matched Kuroda with zeroes in the runs column if not the hits column. The Yankees had four hits off Harrison through six but were unable to score.
Texas ended Kuroda’s dream when Elvis Andrus led off the seventh with an infield single. A lot of Yankees fans will probably argue whether Derek Jeter would have been able to do what Jayson Nix could not, which was to throw out Andrus at first base after making a diving stop. My take is that it did not matter who was playing shortstop. Andruw was going to beat the play. Jeter would have also had to leave his feet to prevent Andrus’ ball from going through the infield as Nix did. But once on the ground, a shortstop would have scant chance to throw Andrus out. It was a pretty clean single in my view.
Kuroda and the Yankees should send a thank-you note to Rangers manager Ron Washington for helping them finally put some numbers on the board in the seventh inning. Washington removed Harrison from the game after he gave up a one-out single to Jeter, who was the designated hitter, in the seventh.
The manager knows his personnel better than I do. Perhaps Harrison was fried after throwing 106 pitches. That really isn’t the point. What is the point is bringing in a righthander, Alexi Ogando, to face switch-hitting Nick Swisher, turning him around to the left side and taking aim at Yankee Stadium’s tempting right field porch. Washington paid for it, too, because Swisher ended up hitting a two-run home run, one night after he belted a grand slam, also batting left-handed, that buried Texas.
Swisher’s numbers this year are decidedly one-sided. He is batting .271 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI as a left-handed hitter and .250 with three home runs and 13 RBI as a right-handed hitter. Swish had a great at-bat as well. He fought off some high-octane gas (Ogando’s fastball ranged from 95 to 99 miles per hour), took a nasty 2-2 slider just off the plate to run the count full before he caught up with a 98-mph heater for his 16th home run.
“I wanted to put velocity on Swisher,” Washington said. “I think the ball that Swish hit was eye-level, but he caught it. He saw so many fastballs in that at-bat that he finally timed one.”
Ogando had barely recovered from that when Mark Teixeira also went deep for his 25th home run.
That was all Kuroda needed, and he has often needed better run support this year. He is 11-8 with a 3.06 ERA, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that with better run support Kuroda “could have 15 or 16” victories by now. Two starts ago, he pitched brilliantly for 6 1/3 innings allowing one run and seven hits but ran into a buzz-saw named Felix Hernandez, who pitched a two-hit shutout. This time, Kuroda was the buzz-saw. This time, he pitched the two-hit shutout.
“This is a very great lineup he shut down,” Girardi said, referring to the Rangers, who lead the AL in batting with a .278 average. “It was probably our best pitching performance of the year.”
Kuroda threw 21 first-pitch strikes, using sinkers and sliders to get ahead in the count and then resorting to a devastating splitter to finish off hitters, particularly left-handed ones. Some of the Rangers’ swings against Kuroda’s nasty stuff were downright ugly.
During his time with the Dodgers, Kuroda pitched a one-hit shutout against the Braves, losing the no-no on a hit by Teixeira. Asked to compare the two games, Kuroda told WCBS radio’s Suzyn Waldman that Tuesday night’s game was bigger because the Texas lineup was far more muscular. He also told Suzyn that “the best is yet to come.”
That should be music to the Yankees’ ears.
The Yankees have had a grand old time this year hitting grand slams. They lead the major leagues in home runs with the bases loaded with nine, which is one shy of the franchise record established in 1987 and equaled in 2010 and ’11. The Yanks have led the majors in grand slams in each of the previous two seasons and have combined for a big-league high of 29 over the past three seasons. That is more than double the next best teams; the Red Sox, Marlins, Cardinals and Rays have 13 apiece.
Nick Swisher’s salami Monday night was his second this year as he joined Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson with multiple slams. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that this is the second time in franchise history that three different players have had multiple grand slams. The other year was 2010 when Alex Rodriguez had three and Cano and Jorge Posada two each.
Rodriguez is on the disabled list because of a fractured bone in his left hand. His teammates have picked up the slack in his absence. Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Casey McGehee have combined as third basemen in A-Rod’s time away to bat .375 with seven home runs in 64 at-bats.
The Yankees have seven players on the roster with at least 200 career home runs (Rodriguez, Swisher, Chavez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter). According to Elias, the only other team in major league history with as many 200-homer men on the same roster was the Yankees’ 2008 team with Posada, Jeter, Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez and Richie Sexson. The Yankees can break the mark this year if Granderson gets three more home runs. The center fielder has 30 this season and 197 for his career.
Stats LLC pointed out that the two pickoffs by David Phelps in Monday night’s victory over Texas were a first for a Yankees righthander in one game since Scott Kamieniecki June 18, 1991 at Toronto.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and new pitcher Derek Lowe were named to the Arizona Fall league Hall of Fame Tuesday, along with Rangers manager Ron Washington. All three men were at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night for the second portion of the four-game series between the clubs with the top two records in the American League.
Arizona Fall League director Steve Cobb said of the election, “Mark and Derek have been remarkably consistent professionals throughout their standout careers, and Ron has become one of the most respected managers in baseball.”
The Arizona Fall League, which was founded in 1992, formed its Hall of Fame in 2001 to honor the top major-league players and managers who honed their skills in the AFL. The selection committee, chaired by lone-time baseball executive Roland Hemond, based its appointments on individual achievement at the major-league level since participating in the Arizona Fall League.
Teixeira, who played for the Peoria Javelinas in 2002, is the fastest switch hitter to 300 career home runs and is also the first switch hitter to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI in each of the past eight seasons (2004-11). Teixeira holds the major-league record of homering from each side of the plate in a game 13 times. Defensively, Tex is the AL career fielding percentage leader among first basemen with a minimum of 1,000 games. He is a two-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time Silver Slugger recipient.
Lowe, who pitched for the Sun Cities Solar Sox in 1993 and Peoria Javelinas in 1995, is one of three pitchers with more than 160 victories and 80 saves, along with Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz. Lowe is one of five Arizona Fall League pitchers to hurl a no-hitter, along with Jered Weaver, Clay Buchholz, Roy Halladay and Phil Humber. Lowe’s no-hitter in 2002 was the first at Fenway Park since 1965. He was the winning pitcher in all three clinching postseason games in 2004 when Boston went on to its first World Series championship since 1918.
Washington, who was a hitting coach for the Sun Cities Solar Sox in 1992 and the Tucson Javelinas in 1993, is the first manager in Rangers history to increase the team’s victory total in four consecutive seasons. He guided Texas to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and ’11 and is the only manager in the history of the Rangers/Senators franchise (1961-2011) to win a postseason series.
The Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame increased its membership to 31 with the elections of Teixeira, Lowe and Washington. Other AFL Hall of Famers connected now or formerly with the Yankees are Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and bench coach Tony Pena.