Hiroki Kuroda said he just doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what’s causing his down-the-stretch struggles, doesn’t know how to fix the problem, and doesn’t know what this means for him beyond the end of this season.
“Personally, I don’t really feel that different (than earlier in the season),” he said. “I should have known what’s causing it and I should have adjusted, but at this stage I can’t really figure out why. … I think the velocity’s still there, but I would say the precise control of my pitches is something that’s been sort of lacking these days. Plus, mechanically, I open up too early. My body opens up too early. That’s maybe been a problem.”
Have the struggles and uncertainty affected Kuroda’s decision about whether he wants to pitch again next season?
“I’m not thinking about it, and I can’t think about it,” he said.
Isn’t it possible that he’s simply exhausted?
“They physical issues have (not) been really bothering me,” he said. “I’ve pitched like 200 innings the past two years, so I think the physical factor is not the problem, I don’t think.”
That’s a universal thing. Even this late in the season, when the Yankees have used some guys for far more at-bats and innings than originally expected, the Yankees refuse to concede that fatigue has been an issue down the stretch. Kuroda’s gone from being a Cy Young-type to being brutally ineffective. The bullpen has looked gassed. The lineup seems thin again.
“It’s interesting, that word tired,” Joe Girardi said. “When you’re going well, and you’re swinging the bats well, and you’re winning games, guys aren’t tired. But when you aren’t scoring runs and you’re losing games, that word comes up a lot: Tired. To me, it’s an excuse is what it is. I have not forgotten what it’s like to play, and you’re beat up, but you’ve got to find a way. That’s your job, and that’s part of it.”
The Yankees have not found a way. Kuroda has not figured out his issues. Girardi seems to have lost faith in every reliever except Mariano Rivera. And the lineup has scored one run in the past two games, knowing each one was a must-win.
“This is what you play the whole season for; for opportunities like this,” Vernon Wells said. “Everything we’ve gone through as a team, there’s no time to be tired.”
Associated Press photo