With two outs and a one-run lead, Hiroki Kuroda allowed a hard-hit double to center field. And then, with very little warning, this game unraveled. The next five Mariners reached base, four runs scored and suddenly the Yankees were in a three-run hole that their offense couldn’t escape.
“After the double he just lost the feel for all his pitches,” catcher Chris Stewart said. “He started yanking his slider. He didn’t really know where his fastball was going to go. It was just a matter of him not being able to find it and throw strikes with all his pitches.”
In the bigger picture, the offense was the biggest letdown tonight. Facing a starter who seemed out of baseball just a few months ago, the Yankees couldn’t get much of anything going. Brett Gardner started the game with a double, and the Yankees didn’t have another extra-base hit until there were two outs in the ninth. It was bad.
But in the short term, a one-run lead slipped away because Kuroda — the Yankees most consistent starter — couldn’t get the final out when he was facing a rookie in Nick Franklin, a .198 hitter in Kelly Shoppach, and an all-glove shortstop in Brendan Ryan. Granted, Gardner didn’t get a good read on the Morse double that started the outburst, and a ball off the second base bag let the inning continue long enough for two insurance runs, but Kuroda just kind of lost it for a little while.
“It seemed like he lost his strike slider,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s so consistent with his stuff, and he kind of lost his strike slider. Then he gets a bad break, a ball hits the bag. He’s probably out of that inning (if it doesn’t hit the bag). He did throw a strike slider to Bay, but it backed up, which is unusual.”
It’s worth noting that the fourth inning included back-to-back walks. Kuroda hadn’t walked two batters in a game since the end of April, so things were certainly odd for a while. And it cost the Yankees.
“If I attacked the hitters with more aggressiveness, maybe the result would have been different,” Kuroda said. “… I didn’t want to make a big inning out of it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to give up that one-run lead. So as a result, I got too careful, and pitched around too much.”
• If the Yankees had more than a one-run lead, maybe Kuroda would have been more comfortable, but a blown bunt attempt cost the Yankees a prime scoring opportunity in the second inning. “They’re not going to be perfect, and we expect them to get the job done,” Girardi said. “But as we know, sometimes it doesn’t.”
• What made Bonderman effective? “The first couple innings he had a hard time throwing strikes,” Girardi said. “It seemed like he got in some long counts, but then he seemed to really find the strike zone. He used his slider pretty effectively and his sinker as well.”
• Bonderman used to throw pretty hard, but he’s basically reinvented himself as a guy who mixes a bunch of pitches. “To me, it seemed like every single pitch was doing something different (each time),” Stewart said. “His fastball was sinking, and when I thought it was going to sink, it rode in on me. His curveball looked like it was going to be sharper than it is, and instead it’s going to break harder into the zone. You get out in front of it. He kept us off balance and he kept us guessing and unfortunately we couldn’t string good at-bats together. He obviously knows how to pitch. He’s been there before We didn’t take him for granted, that’s for sure.”
• This was Bonderman’s first quality start and first win since September 8, 2010.
• Kuroda has five career starts against the Mariners and he has a 3.27 ERA in those starts. Before tonight, though, his career ERA was 2.70 against Seattle. This was only the second time Kuroda had ever allowed more than two runs against the Mariners. He’s never allowed more than four against them.
• Preston Claiborne still hasn’t walked anyone, but he did hit a batter tonight.
• Ichiro Suzuki has an eight-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .391 with four runs and three RBI.
• Vernon Wells, on the other hand, hasn’t had a hit in 37 straight games. I didn’t look it up, but I’m sure it’s something like that. Today’s 0-for-4 brought him down to a .236 average for the season. Wonder how much longer the Yankees go before Wells is strictly a platoon player.
• Stewart is fine. Lyle Overbay was simply pinch hitting to bring a better bat to the plate. There’s no injury.
• We’ll give Stewart the final word, if only because it’s pretty easy to sum up this one: “It’s just one of those things where (Kuroda) just had a bad inning,” Stewart said. “And unfortunately, we didn’t score enough runs to pick him up.
Associated Press photos