There was a locker-by-locker migration happening in the Yankees clubhouse tonight. From the catcher to the first baseman to the shortstop, with multiple stops in between, the New York writers went in search of hidden answers. Maybe this game wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Maybe there was one thing in particular that made the difference, one bit of insider analysis that would explain something greater than the obvious.
But the consensus seemed to be exactly what you’d expect: A very good pitcher pitched a very good game tonight. The Yankees talked about commanding the strike zone, not making mistakes in the middle of the plate, mixing offspeed pitches, keeping hitters off balance and leaving hitters guessing.
Yu Darvish was excellent tonight. It’s as simple as that. He had a mid-90s fastball, he could sink it, he could cut it, and he could throw a curveball, slider and splitfinger for strikes. When he made mistakes, they were off the plate. He threw strikes when he needed to, and expanded the zone when he could. When the Yankees talked about him, they weren’t using unfamiliar terms. They were saying the same things they always say when a pitcher does this well.
“Obviously he’s a great pitcher,” Hiroki Kuroda said. “If you put zeroes on the board, with the lineup we have, obviously he’s a great pitcher.”
If there’s a bigger picture story at work, it’s the fact the Yankees were never heavily involved in the bidding for a 25-year-old who’s 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA through his first four Major League starts. It’s a storyline compounded by the fact Kuroda is 1-3, Michael Pineda is hurt and the Yankees rotation has struggled. Time will tell whether the Yankees made a mistake in passing on Darvish, but for at least one night, he was everything the Rangers hoped he could be and everything the Yankees worried he might not be.
“There’s a lot of expectations on that young man,” Joe Girardi said. “There’s a lot of players who deal with it here (in New York) sometimes when you’re a first-round pick and expected to come in and put up huge numbers and be an ace.”
Tonight there was no mystery to his success. Darvish was terrific, and the Yankees were overmatched.
• Kuroda was very good tonight. He wasn’t Darvish-good, but two runs through 6.2 innings is very good against this Rangers lineup. “I told him, ‘We can do that all year long and we’ll be just fine,’” Russell Martin said. “I think he was happy with his performance today.”
• Through four starts, Kuroda has pitched one bad game, one good game, one bad game and now another good game. “I think if I made any adjustments, it was mental adjustments,” Kuroda said. “I just concentrated on hitting my target — Russell’s mitt — and that’s what I was trying to do today.”
• The Yankees big opportunity came in the third inning when Eric Chavez got their first hit, Martin drew a walk and Derek Jeter reached on an infield single. They had the bases loaded with no outs, but Darvish struck out Curtis Granderson and got Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double play. Darvish stranded a leadoff double the very next inning. “Good pitchers make good pitches when they need to,” Jeter said. “And he did tonight.”
• Jeter, by the way, extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active streak in the American League. He went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .416.
• Teixeira said the Yankees game plan included staying patient and forcing Darvish to throw strikes. He’d walked at least four batters in each of his previous three starts, but tonight he didn’t walk any after the third inning. “Each start his command has gotten better,” Girardi said. “I don’t think you can judge him on his first big league start. We’ve seen a lot of things go awry for anyone’s first big league start. Against Detroit he had much better command. It’s just seemed to get better and better.”
• Darvish was pulled after a one-out single by Nick Swisher in the ninth. It took Joe Nathan one pitch to get Raul Ibanez to ground into a game-ending double play. “I was looking for a ball up and I got it up,” Ibanez said. “And usually, those don’t go on the ground, but that one did. I was looking for something I could get in the air, and I didn’t get it up in the air obviously. I was looking for a fastball up in the zone, and I tried to hit it in the air.”
• Two at-bats that got Kuroda in trouble were the first-inning home run by Ian Kinsler — Kuroda said it was a slider left over the middle of the plate — and a two-out walk to Elvis Andrus, setting up the RBI single by Josh Hamilton. “I think I tried to be perfect with that pitch,” Kuroda said. “All these guys in the lineup, all power hitters. I think I tried to be too perfect with that pitch.”
• The Rangers shutout the Yankees for the first time since August 16, 2000.
• One bit of news that has nothing to do with tonight’s game: Girardi said after the game that Freddy Garcia will stay on turn to start on Saturday. CC Sabathia will start Sunday and the rest of the rotation will stay on turn.
Associated Press photos