Hiroki Kuroda has pitched at least seven innings in 13 of his past 17 starts. In that time, he’s allowed a first-inning run only twice — including tonight’s three-run homer — after allowing 12 first-inning runs in his first nine starts of the season. Of course, tonight that first-inning homer was too much for the Yankees offense.
The Yankees have lost seven games when their opponents have scored three runs or less this season. Kuroda has pitched four of those games.
“You always want to reward a pitcher for pitching well,” Mark Teixeira said. “And other than the first inning, Hiro was amazing, the way he’s really been all year. It’s tough when we can’t get him any runs.”
Runners left at second and third in the fifth inning. Bases left loaded in the sixth. Bases loaded again in the seventh. The Yankees left eight runners on base in a span of three innings, and those wasted opportunities were the difference in the game.
“We had our chances,” Russell Martin said.
To their credit, all three Yankees outs in the sixth inning were hard hit — Teixeira’s deep sac fly, Eric Chavez’s sharp line drive to third and Martin’s deep fly to right — but it was still a missed opportunity. As was the bases-loaded chance in the seventh, which started with two outs and the bases empty but became a reach chance after two singles and a walk. Teixeira popped out against very good setup man Vinnie Pestano.
Girardi said he liked his team’s at-bats, they just didn’t have the big hit to show for it. But it’s the kind of thing they’d prefer Kuroda not be so used to at this point.
“I just try to focus on whatever I can control,” he said. “Obviously those (low-scoring) games, I have been in several times in my career. But I try to focus on whatever I can do and whatever I can control, and go from there.”
Is that easy to do?
“I try to convince myself,” Kuroda said.
• The Yankees have now lost five of their last six road games, including four of five this road trip. They need a win tomorrow to keep from going 1-5 on this trip. This game snapped a streak of 10 consecutive road games in which the Yankees homered.
• This was Kuroda’s third complete game in the past two months, but only one of them has lasted a full nine innings. Despite his strong last seven innings, no one seemed to think Kuroda was especially sharp today. “He was scuffling a little bit with his slider command,” Martin said. “But he had enough of his other pitches. He pitched a great game besides that one pitch. He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he battled through it and kept us in the game the whole game. We just weren’t able to score any runs.”
• Teixiera was asked whether he thought he got a good pitch to hit in that bases-loaded at-bat in the seventh. “Unfortunately, no,” he said. “Pestano’s got dirty stuff. You don’t want to throw out a Mariano comparison with that cutter. I mean, that’s a really tough cutter. He throws it hard. He throws it from a sidearm angle, which is really tough to see. And his numbers show it. His numbers are really good this year.”
• Jeter has 53 multi-hit games this season, tied for second-most in baseball behind Miguel Cabrera, who has 54. Jeter is hitting .366 in his career at Progressive Field, his highest average at any ballpark (minimum 55 at-bats) and the highest average for anyone in Progressive Field history (minimum 115 at-bats).
• Justin Masterson was good tonight, and he got his 10th win, the first Indians pitcher to reach double digits this year. “He’s always had great stuff,” Teixeira said. “The thing with him is you just have to hit mistakes. He didn’t make many today. That was our problem. When a guy throws 95-96 with some of the best movement in baseball, when he’s on, he’s really good.”
• Girardi nearly came out to argue the call on Ichiro Suzuki’s ninth-inning groundout. It would have brought the tying run to the plate with one out. “I think he’s safe, but what good does it do?” Girardi said.
• Forgot to mention pregame that David Phelps has been officially named the Yankees starter for Monday, taking Ivan Nova’s turn.
• Former Yankees reliever Alfredo Aceves has been suspended three games by the Red Sox because of “conduct detrimental to the team.” He apparently wasn’t pleased when Andrew Bailey got a save opportunity.
Associated Press photos