Results tagged ‘ Hiroki Kuroda ’
As if the Yankees didn’t have enough trouble Tuesday night, a former teammate added to their misery. Jason Giambi put the finishing touch on a wild, 5-4 Indians victory over the White Sox in Cleveland while the Yankees were going down quietly, 7-0, to the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees’ situation is now critical. They trail the Indians for the second wild-card playoff berth by five games with five to play. Do the math and it comes out to the Yankees’ tragic number being down to one. One more Yankees loss or Indians victory will keep the Bombers home during the postseason for only the second time in the past 19 seasons.
Tampa Bay kept a sturdy hold on the first wild-card spot with the victory despite a shaky start by Matt Moore (16-4). The lefthander struggled with command (six walks, three wild pitches, one of which put a strikeout victim on base) but gave up only three hits in five innings. The Yankees were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base against Moore and were 0-for-10 with 11 stranded runners for the game.
Runs have been hard to come by for the Yankees lately. They have scored one in their past 20 innings on Mark Reynolds’ third-inning home run Sunday against the Giants. The Yanks were shut out for the 11th time this season, the most in one year since they were blanked 15 times in 1990. This was the third time the Yankees were held scoreless this year by Tampa Bay.
As has been in the case in his recent starts, Hiroki Kuroda took a while to get into a rhythm on the mound. The Rays had a 3-0 lead four batters into the game. Kuroda gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce, a single to Wil Myers, a double to David De Jesus (who took third on the throw home) and a sacrifice fly to Evan Longoria. The way the Yankees’ offense has sputtered lately, that was probably the game right there.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had lefthander Boone Logan up in the bullpen in the sixth inning but curiously did not bring him into the game to face left-handed batting James Loney with the bases loaded and one out. Loney lined a double to right-center for two runs that pretty much sealed the deal for the Rays.
Meanwhile, the Indians had one of those inspiring victories that can propel a club into postseason play. Cleveland closer Chris Perez blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth by giving up two solo home runs. The Tribe had the last laugh, however, when Giambi went yard as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth with two out and a runner on second base.
It was tough going all around for the crowd of 43,407 at the Stadium. The truck carrying Mariano Rivera bobblehead dolls for Tuesday night’s giveaway was late, which created long lines for ticketholders to collect their gift.
The Yankees’ slim hopes of making the playoffs have been dealt a further blow with the loss of CC Sabathia for the remainder of the season. He sustained a Grade 2 left hamstring strain, which requires a recovery time of eight weeks, during Friday night’s 5-1 victory over the Giants. The amazing part is that Sabathia felt the strain as early as the second inning and still he pitched into the eighth and after the game told manager Joe Girardi he expected to make his next start. That was the adrenalin talking, of course. Once the strain was discovered, Sabathia was shut down for the rest of the way.
“It’s frustrating,” Sabathia said. “It came at a time when I felt I was going in the right direction.”
The 2013 season was something of a roller coaster for Sabathia, who finished with a 14-13 record and a 4.78 ERA, the highest of his career. The lefthander did not mince words when summing up his season.
“I had a bad year,” he said.
Well, that’s a bit harsh. What Sabathia had was an inconsistent season, one in which he could not take success from start to start as he had in the past during a career that included his winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2006 with the Indians and in five years with the Yankees that included an World Series championship in 2009.
“I didn’t grind it out the way I have in the past,” he said. “I gave up too many leads. Our guys would come back against a good pitcher, and I’d give back the lead the next inning. If I could have given Hiro [Hiroki Kuroda] more help, we’d be in a better position than we are now.”
In that last sentence, Sabathia acknowledged that he lost the staff ace designation to Kuroda at some point during the season, a position he hopes to regain in 2014.
“I had different issues; it wasn’t just one thing,” he said. “Earlier in the year, it was arm angle, not getting my elbow up. Another part of it was being stubborn, not wanting to change. I was never one to look at videos. I had to change my approach and started doing that to study hitters’ tendencies. I fell into a pattern where I was pitching people the same way. My preparation for the game needs to be better. I felt like I let my teammates down this year. I intend to work hard over the winter and next spring to go back to being the pitcher I was when I signed here.”
When you come right down to it, the Yankees have the Blue Jays to thank for being in the wild-card chase at all. The Yanks bullied Toronto most of the year except this week. What a time for the Blue Jays to turn the tide.
The Yankees are crawling home from this trip. A 4-6 record through Baltimore, Boston and Toronto was not what they needed to make headway in the wild-card race. Losing two of three to the Blue Jays could turn out to be the killer series for the Yankees, who scored in only three of the 27 innings at Rogers Centre the past three nights.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi will take his lumps in the press and from fans for bringing in Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning of a 3-1 game. Chamberlain, once a lights-out reliever, had fallen down the bullpen scale so much this year that he had not been used often in high-leverage spots, which made his appearance curious to say the least.
Walking weak-hitting Munenori Kawasaki to start the inning was a harbinger of what was to come. Brett Lawrie followed with a ground single through the right side. With lefthander Cesar Cabral throwing in the bullpen, Girardi stayed with Chamberlain against lefty-swinging Adam Lind, who crushed a 2-1 slider for a three-run home run that hit the Yankees like a dagger.
Actually, Yankees pitchers were on the tightrope all night. Hiroki Kuroda somehow got through six innings by allowing only three runs, thanks to some stupid base running by the Jays and even worse clutch hitting. Toronto was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base over the first four innings.
It was another disappointing outing for Kuroda, who over his past seven starts is 0-5 with a 6.37 ERA. The Yankees’ rotation has had an unproductive month. The starting pitchers combined are 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA in September.
As ineffective as the pitching has been, the offense has been worse. The Yankees scored only six runs in the three games at Toronto. Curtis Granderson apart, they did nothing against Jays starter Todd Redmond (4-2). Granderson tagged him for a solo homer in the sixth, but Redmond gave up only three other hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
The Yankees are four games back in the loss column in the wild-card standings in which five clubs are ahead of them for two available berths. The Yanks come home into the netherworld of inter-league play this weekend against the Giants and can only hope they can cut their deficit to Tampa Bay to three games or less when the Rays come to Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.
With a bullpen gasping, the last thing the Yankees needed Friday night was for their starting pitcher to blow up in the early innings. That is precisely what happened to Hiroki Kuroda, who soon after righted himself and pitched into the seventh but that first-inning damage did not go away. Although the Yankees evaporated the four-run deficit stemming from that inning, the weakened bullpen could not keep the Red Sox at bay and help the Yankees to another stirring, come-from-behind victory.
Instead, it turned out to be a night out of, well, Friday the 13th for the Yankees, whose movement in the American League wild-card chase stalled as the result of the 8-4 loss. In essence, the score was the same after the first inning when the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead off Kuroda, who threw 33 pitches and looked as if he might have to make an early exit.
The Red Sox threatened to blow the game wide open by loading the bases with one out in the second inning, but Kuroda worked out of it without giving up a run and did the same in the third after a leadoff double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In fact, Kuroda retired 12 of the next 13 batters and was in a tie game by the time he reached the seventh inning.
John Lackey, who has had run-support issues all season, allowed the Yankees to chip away at the four-run spread. The Boston righthander gave up a Green Monster home run to Brendan Ryan in the third and needed a splendid, running catch from hamstrung right fielder Shane Victorino on a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay in the sixth to prevent that from becoming a much bigger inning.
The bottom of the Yankees’ order – Ryan and Chris Stewart – pushed Lackey out of the game in the seventh with one-out singles, and left-handed reliever Craig Breslow lost the lead as Robinson Cano drove in two runs with his third double and fourth hit of the game.
The Yankees came from behind in two of their three victories in Baltimore leading into this series and appeared bound to do so again before the Red Sox started putting runners on base in the bottom of the seventh beginning with a scorching single off Kuroda that Eduardo Nunez at third base could not handle.
The back end of the Yankees’ bullpen was not up to the task. Manager Joe Girardi, with Mariano Rivera and David Robertson unavailable because of recent use and Boone Logan disabled, went with a pair of rookies. Lefthander Cesar Cabral hit the only batter he faced, David Ortiz. Righthander Preston Claiborne walked the bases loaded and after a big strikeout of Daniel Nava got creamed on a 0-1 fastball to Saltalamacchia for a grand slam.
So all the positives the Yankees achieved in Baltimore blew up in one bad night in Boston. The Rays shut out the Twins to maintain a 1 ½-game lead for the second wild-card spot over the Indians, who moved a half-game ahead of the Yankees. Looking at just the loss column, the Yanks, Orioles and Royals all have 69 losses, three more than the Rays, and the days are withering down.
If you didn’t think Sunday’s game was important to the Yankees, consider this: Mariano Rivera was called on for a six-out save. This was something out of postseason play, which is what the Yankees are hopeful for qualifying for this season.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate in using Mo for such a stretch. One, it is that time of year and, two, what would you save Rivera for? As the skipper said after the game, noting that the career saves leader will retire at the end of the season, “He’s at a point where he’s not saving anything for 2014.”
The only problem is that it didn’t work. Rivera blew the save opportunity for the seventh time this season and the second time in this series when he allowed a leadoff home run to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning that made the score 3-3. Perhaps the only people at Yankee Stadium who thought the ball was a homer were those seated in the first two rows of seats in right field. To everybody else, Rivera and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, it seemed as if it were a high fly ball that would eventually become an out instead of going out.
In the bottom of that inning, however, Rivera would have a smile on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon after Suzuki scored from third base on a wild pitch by Brandon Workman that clinched a 4-3 victory.
Eight runs were not enough Thursday night. Eight runs were not enough Friday night. Nine runs were not enough Saturday. As it turned out, four runs were sufficient for the Yankees Sunday.
The ninth-inning run was an Ichiro special. He singled to left-center field with one out and then quickly moved into scoring position with a steal of second base. Vernon Wells’ flyout to right field was deep enough for Suzuki to scamper to third base. Any battery has to be careful about a wild pitch or a passed ball with a player as quick as Ichiro on third base. There was no doubt that when the pitch by Workman eluded catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia that the Yankee would get the run they needed to avoid a four-game sweep by Boston and give them some momentum headed to Baltimore for another challenging, four-game set against an Orioles club that is battling for the same prize as the Yankees, a wild-card postseason berth.
“Anybody could have made it,” Ichiro said of the winning run, “anybody with a good read.”
Well, that does not just happen with anybody but with a player of Suzuki’s instinct on the bases. This was the first time the Yankees had a walk-off victory on a wild pitch since Sept. 27, 1977 against the Indians and Jim Bibby when the run was scored by Thurman Munson, who made up for lack of speed with an abundance of smarts.
The game might have turned into a disaster if not for that play. The Yankees had overcome a 1-0 deficit to Jon Lester, who pitched eight strong innings, to take a 3-1 lead behind Hiroki Kuroda, who threw 117 pitches over six innings. Shawn Kelley worked the seventh without issue before the strains of “Enter Sandman” were heard surprisingly at the start of the eighth.
Rivera had not pitched for two days, so Girard felt confident that he could use him for a lengthier period. Mo had the same confidence and said he will feel the same way Monday night at Camden Yards.
“If they need me, I’ll be there,” Rivera said. “I have to be ready for any situation. We’re trying to get to the playoffs.”
That pursuit can often find players doing odd things. In the second inning with runners on first and second and none out, Mark Reynolds tried to bunt them over and fouled out to the catcher, the same Mark Reynolds who is usually feast or famine with his home run or strikeout mentality.
“We’ll let that go for now,” Girardi said, clearly indicated that Reynolds was bunting on his own and something he will be told never to do again.
The Yankees failed to score that inning, but Reynolds atoned for his mistake by driving in the Yankees’ first run of the game in the fourth with a booming double to center field. A clutch, two-out single by Robinson Cano an inning later gave the Yankees their first lead in the series since that 8-3 spread entering the seventh inning Friday night that the bullpen flushed.
The Red Sox cut it to 3-2 with a run in the sixth on a double by David Ortiz and two infield outs. One-run leads are usually as good as gold for Rivera, but he has proved a bit more vulnerable in his final season. He last blew as many as seven saves in 2001.
Don’t be surprised, however, that if the Yankees need him to nail down a victory Monday night that, in his words, Mo will be there.
There was an impending disaster facing the Yankees for seven innings Tuesday night. They were actually in danger of losing to the White Sox at a time when the Yankees need to have the upper hand against the lower order of the American League if they intend to play in October.
Let’s be fair here. The White Sox are a different team with Chris Sale on the mound. He has pitched far better (2.97 ERA) than his 10-12 record would indicate. And against the Yankees, he is simply lights out (2-0, 1.05 ERA). Well, at least until the eighth inning Tuesday night. The Yanks finally put enough of a dent in his armor for White Sox manager Robin Ventura to turn to his bullpen.
Please send our old pal a thank you note.
After Derek Jeter singled and Robinson Cano doubled with one out against Sale, the Yankees jumped on three Chicago relief pitchers for a five-run rally that had even more impact than the eight-run inning they exhibited the day before. This late charge that turned a potential loss into an exhilarating, 6-4 victory and had the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,215 sounding like the whole borough of the Bronx was in attendance.
Cano’s double off the left field auxiliary scoreboard came on a two-strike pitch from Sale. So did the single by Alfonso Soriano that got the Yankees to 4-3 and the single by Alex Rodriguez that kept the line moving, both off righthander Nate Jones (4-5).
Curtis Granderson greeted lefthander Donnie Veal with a single to center that tied the score. There was a temporary sigh when Mark Reynolds struck out, but another abrupt message to an incoming reliever was in store. Eduardo Nunez, who made one of the best defensive plays of the game, got the crowd roaring with a double down the left field line to break the tie and tack on an insurance run as well.
Mariano Rivera laced it up into a bow with his 40th save; a huge victory for the Yankees, who jumped back in front of the Orioles into third place in the AL East and climbed a half-game closer to the Rays, who took a five-game losing streak into their game against the Angels. This was a game that will resonate for the Yankees if they can complete their quest for a postseason berth that seemed in serious peril after their disappointing 2-4 trip through St. Petersburg, Fla., and Toronto a week ago.
The pitcher the Yankees have relied on the most this season is showing signs of wear, which is not unusual for someone his age. Hiroki Kuroda, 38, has clearly hit a wall. He was not terrible Tuesday night but not good enough to beat the beatable White Sox. His teammates got him off the hook to avoid what would have been his fourth straight loss, but they owed him as much.
For four innings, Kuroda matched Sale in a 1-1 game. The Chicago run in the first inning ended Kuroda’s 21 2/3 scoreless innings streak at the Stadium. The Yankees’ run in the second came on a double steal with Vernon Wells scoring from third base.
Then in the fifth, Kuroda began to crack. He gave up a leadoff single to Alejandro De Aza and walked Gordon Beckham in an 11-pitch at-bat. Alexi Ramirez somehow got around on a 94-mph sinker and hit a hard grounder down the left field line. Soriano, who has played well in left field since coming to the Yankees, couldn’t stop the ball before it got to the corner and rolled past him as Ramirez legged out a two-run triple.
Kuroda and his infielders kept the inning from being worse. Dunn couldn’t get the ball past a tight infield and grounded out to Cano, who checked Ramirez at third. Nunez at shortstop went one better by gloving a liner by Paul Konerko and firing to Rodriguez at third base to double-off Ramirez.
Okay, 3-1 in the fifth is not the end of the world, but the Yankees couldn’t fire back right away. They failed to capitalize on Nunez’s leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth and stranded him at second base. In the seventh came that rarity when a player hit a foul home run and in the same at-bat hits a fair home run. De Aza’s 15th jack of the year made it 4-1 and ended Kuroda’s outing.
But not the game; oh, no, far from it.
After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that Phil Hughes and his 4-13 record would go to the bullpen and that David Huff, who is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.60 over his past 15 innings, will go into the rotation and start during the upcoming four-game series with the Red Sox.
Who would have thought the Yankees would stall in Toronto? They came to Rogers Centre having won 12 of 13 games against the Blue Jays this year but dropped two of three after having done the same in the previous stop at St. Petersburg, Fla. As the calendar days wear down, the Yankees can ill afford losing series.
The 7-2 loss Wednesday night pushed the Yankees 5 ½ games behind in the wild-card chase, which is their only realistic shot at a piece of the postseason since they are 8 ½ games out of first place in the American League East. This loss was especially painful considering the pitching matchup.
The Yankees had Hiroki Kuroda, who has emerged as their ace this season, going against Todd Redmond, a 28-year-old journeyman righthander who has spent nine years in the minor leagues. You’d have bet the ranch on Kuroda – and you would have lost.
It is fair to say now after three subpar starts that Kuroda has hit a wall. The righthander was down 7-0 by the third inning, although two of the runs were unearned due to a bizarre play by the normally reliable Chris Stewart behind the plate. After a passed ball that went back to the screen, Stewart threw wildly to first base for an error that allowed two runners to score.
Kuroda was already in trouble by then. A terrific, diving play by shortstop Derek Jeter kept the first inning from being truly disastrous as if four runs were not enough. Before Stew’s blunder, Kuroda gave up hard-hit doubles to Ryan Goins and Brett Lawrie, walked one batter and hit another.
A four-run, deficit with eight innings to go is not the uphill climb that would have faced the Yankees before their lineup became fortified by the returns of Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez and the additions of Alfonso Soriano and Mark Reynolds. Redmond (2-2) gave up run-scoring hits to A-Rod and Reynolds but shut down most of the rest of the order for 5 2/3 innings. Three relievers stopped the Yankees on two hits over the next 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Yankees were poised for a big inning in the fourth but a questionable send of A-Rod by third base coach Rob Thompson choked the rally. Rodriguez after two hip surgeries does not run the way he once did and was thrown out at the plate.
Reynolds, the nouveau second baseman, had three of the Yankees’ five hits. He made his first start at the position since he was in the minors eight years ago and did a respectable job. If nothing else, manager Joe Girardi found out he can use Reynolds at that position in the future if an emergency calls for it. Eduardo Nunez was in the original lineup but was a late scratch due to soreness in his right knee that he injured Tuesday night. Robinson Cano, who was hit in the left hand by a pitch Tuesday night, is expected back in the lineup Friday night when the Yankees open a weekend series against the Orioles.
As for Kuroda, he made it through five innings, but the results were not pleasant – nine hits, seven runs (five earned), one walk, four strikeouts, one home run (by Edwin Encarnacion, his 34th, an absolute bomb).
It was the third straight shaky start for Kuroda, whose ERA over that stretch has gone from 2.33 to 2.89. In his past three starts, Kuroda is 1-2 with an 8.10 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Thursday’s open date allows Girardi to give his starting pitchers an extra day of rest in the rotation. Kuroda certainly seems in need of it.
Hiroki Kuroda has picked up the Yankees all season. Now his teammates can pay him back by picking up the rest of this series for him. Kuroda simply was not himself Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Rays that stifled the momentum the Yankees were thriving on after sweeping a four-game series from Toronto that alerted other contenders that they intend to be in the thick of the race for a postseason berth.
The Yankees came from behind in all four games against the Blue Jays, but there would be no heroics at Tropicana Field as the Rays kept hitting balls over the fences to push the Yankees further behind over the first five innings.
Kuroda gave the Yankees innings – six – and little else. The seven runs and the four home runs were the most allowed in a game this year by Kuroda, who has yielded 20 hits in his past 11 2/3 innings. The Yanks gave Kuroda a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Alfonso Soriano crossing up Rays manager Joe Maddon’s over-shift, but in the second the righthander was jolted by a three-run home run by Rays catcher Jose Lobaton that ended Kuroda’s homerless streak of 58 1/3 innings.
Tampa Bay kept it up with solo shots by Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce back-to-back in the third inning and Ben Zobrist leading off the fifth. Along the way, Lobaton picked up a fourth RBI on a single in the fourth. Kuroda entered the game leading the American League in earned run average but dropped into fifth place and surrendered the lead to the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.
The offensive surge was more than enough support for Chris Archer, another impressive young pitcher in the Rays’ corral who has been murder on the Yankees this year. The righthander held the Yankees to two runs, four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to run his record against them this season to 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Archer, who pitched a two-hit shutout against the Yankees in his previous start against them July 27 at Yankee Stadium, became the first rookie pitcher to win three games against them in one season since 1989 by Kevin Brown, then with the Rangers.
The Yankees’ big bats were awfully quiet. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Soriano and Alex Rodriguez combined for that one hit by Soriano in 16 at-bats with three strikeouts. Leadoff man Brett Gardner had a hand – rather, legs – in scoring both the Yankees’ runs.
He led off the game with a walk, stole second, crossed to third on a deep flyout by Granderson and scored on the hit by Soriano. Gardner tripled leading off the fifth and scored on an infield out by Cano. Gardner suffered an embarrassing moment in the eighth, which he led off with an infield single, by getting picked off first base by reliever Jamey Wright.
So the five-game winning streak is over, but the Yankees still have a chance to win the series, which they have done in each of their past four series. Saturday night’s second game of the set pairs former AL Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and David Price. It will mark the ninth matchup between the two lefthanders. Price has had the upper hand in the rivalry with a 4-2 record and 2.52 ERA with the Rays winning six of the eight games.
Hiroki Kuroda has had his share of poor run support this year. It happened again Saturday with the Yankees scoring only run. What made this game different is that the Yanks poorly supported him defensively as well.
Weak fielding has not been an issue for the Yankees this year. Despite all the injuries, the Yanks have slapped leather pretty well. Kuroda was hurt by two errors that were factors in the 6-1 loss to the Red Sox, a huge disappointment considering Kuroda has been so dependable all season.
The damaging inning was the fourth when the Red Sox scored three runs with the aid of an errant throw by Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay and a blown call by third base umpire Bill Welke. Expanded replay will not come to Major League Baseball until 2014, so the Yankees had to live with Welke’s blunder Saturday.
Boston had runners on the corners with none out after David Ortiz led off with a double and Mike Carp singled. Kuroda held firm and struck out Daniel Nava looking. Stephen Drew then hit a bouncer to Overbay, who instead of throwing home to get the plodding Ortiz decided to throw to second base in an effort to start a potentially inning-ending double play.
That decision exploded in Overbay’s face. His throw to second was high and pulled Robinson Cano off the base. No out there. Cano’s relay to first was not in time to get Drew. No out there. In the meantime, Ortiz scored, and the Red Sox still had two runners on base. Overbay blamed himself for sailing his throw.
Carp and Drew then pulled off a double steal, although replays indicated that Alex Rodriguez tagged Carp on his thigh before his foot hit the base at third. Welke was right on top of the play and called the runner safe even though video replays showed otherwise. Both runners eventually scored on two-out singles by Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury.
That inning was part of a weird game for the Yankees. They ran themselves out of potentially productive inning in the second. Red-hot Alfonso Soriano singled and Rodriguez walked to begin the inning. Curtis Granderson followed with a flare to shallow center that was gloved by Drew, the shortstop who then turned and threw to second base to double-off Soriano.
Soriano also led off the fourth with a single but was caught stealing, snuffing out another possible scoring opportunity. The Yankees never really mounted a strong attack against John Lackey (8-10), who pitched into the seventh and ended a personal four-game losing streak by winning for the first time in six starts since July 12.
On the plus side for Overbay, he had three hits, but the Yankees had only one hit in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, and that hit by Overbay did not score a run. Cano had an 11-game hitting streak stopped as failed to get a ball out of the infield. The Yankees need to shake this one off and try to win the series behind CC Sabathia Sunday night at Fenway Park.
You look at the record – 11-7 – and it does not appear overwhelming. Yet that is just what Hiroki Kuroda has been for the Yankees this season.
In a year when CC Sabathia has struggled to maintain his status as staff ace, Kuroda has taken the baton and given the Yankees ace-like quality for much of the season. Had run support been more plentiful in Kuroda’s starts, he might have five or six more victories.
Even Monday night when he pitched an absolute gem, Kuroda had slim margin for error as the Yankees managed only two runs off Angels starter Garrett Richards. That skinny margin nearly cost Kuroda another winning decision in this game when Los Angeles rallied in the ninth inning only to fall one run short.
Kuroda shut out the Angels on three hits in eight innings to lower his season ERA to 2.33, which ranks second in the American League only to the 2.28 of the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Over his past seven starts covering 48 innings, Kuroda’s ERA is a microscopic 0.94. He is 4-1 in that stretch.
Josh Hamilton opened the second inning with a double to right-center, but he never got beyond second base as Kuroda retired the next nine batters in a row. A leadoff walk to Eric Aybar ended that run of outs but Kuroda ran off six more before Mike Trout beat out an infield single to start the seventh. Kuroda quickly erased him by getting Hamilton to ground into a double play. The other hit off Kuroda was a two-out double in the eighth by catcher Chris Iannetta, who was also stranded.
Brett Gardner, the hero of Sunday’s walk-off victory over the Tigers, was productive again with a two-out, RBI single in the third. It stayed a 1-0 game until the seventh when Curtis Granderson homered into the second deck in right field. That likely created a sense of déjà vu for Richards. He was the first pitcher to make his major-league debut at the current Yankee Stadium Aug. 10, 2011 and gave up six runs and six hits in five innings of a 9-3 Yankees victory. Two of the hits off Richards in that game were home runs by Granderson.
Granderson’s third home run of this season proved pivotal when the Angels came alive after Kuroda left the game. Boone Logan started the ninth and gave up a hit and got a strikeout. At the same time, Yankees fans in the Stadium crowd of 37,146 chanted “We want Mo,” a good sign of their allegiance to Mariano Rivera despite his having blown three straight save opportunities.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to stay away from Mo in this one and brought in David Robertson, who got into immediate trouble by walking Mike Trout and giving up a bloop double down the left field line that made the score 2-1. It forced the Yanks to walk Aybar intentionally to load the bases and set up a force at each. Robertson bore down hard for his first save with impressive strikeouts of Mike Trout and Chris Nelson.
In a way, it was a view into the future. A year from now when Rivera is retired and enjoying his life with his family, Robertson just may be the guy called on regularly to get those last important outs.