Hiroki Kuroda is the last man standing from a Yankees rotation depleted by elbow, shoulder and knee injuries. He was the team’s oldest starting pitcher on Opening Day, and he’s the only one who hasn’t landed on the disabled list. With Kuroda on the mound tonight, the Yankees could not easily blame this loss on their rotation woes.
“We’re getting good pitching,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We’re getting someone going out there every night giving us a chance to win.”
Kuroda allowed two runs through seven innings. He was a rough fourth inning — two hit batters, two wild pitches, two runs, one poor play by Derek Jeter — but Kuroda ultimately walked no one and allowed just three hits. Starting pitching was not the Yankees problem tonight.
Problem was that their lineup couldn’t score a run after getting a couple of early homers, and their bullpen — perhaps exhausted from so many extra-inning games recently — eventually gave up a walk-off.
“Hiro was great tonight,” Brian Roberts said. “That’s as good as I’ve seen him pitch in a while. You always want to get a win when your guy goes seven and you give up two.”
In their past 16 games, the Yankees have lost only once when scoring more than three runs, but they’ve lost every time they’ve scored three runs or less. And they’ve done that in half of those 16 games. When the offense shows up, the Yankees tend to win, but the offense isn’t there consistently. Couple that with a patchwork rotation and an overworked bullpen and the Yankees are stumbling into this final weekend before the All-Star break.
“We need to play well these last two games,” Derek Jeter said. “But like you said, we were playing well, and sometimes teams are going to beat you. But when you’re playing a good team like this, you have to play your best. Hopefully we can play better the next two days and take it into the All-Star break. But you’re right, we started off (this road trip) pretty well, but hopefully we can finish it off.”
• Despite being otherwise effective, Kuroda hit two batters and three three wild pitches. A high fastball was a cross up, but the other two were splitters that got past McCann. “I’ve got to block those balls,” McCann said. “He pitched awesome. He controlled the game. He did exactly what he wanted to do with the baseball all night long.”
• Kuroda was particularly wild in that fourth inning when he threw two wild pitches and hit two batters. According to the Orioles postgame notes, it was only the fifth time in the expansion era that a pitcher hit two or more batters and threw two or more wild pitches in the same inning. Kuroda became the first Yankees to do so.
• Last player to hit at least two and throw at least two wild pitches in an inning: C.J. Wilson just last year. He hit two guys and threw three wild pitches.
• Kuroda had four wild pitches all season before throwing three tonight. That matches a career-high for him. He did not walk a batter for the sixth time this season. He retired the last eight batters he faced. “He had a good first half for us,” Giradri said. “He’s thrown the ball well. He’s been on a roll for us. Pleased with what he’s doing. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get him a win tonight.”
• Adam Warren took the loss after allowing a double and a walk-off single in the 10th. On the leadoff double, he fell behind in the count 1-0 and was trying to get back in it with a fastball that Manny Machado hit. On the game-winner, Warren said he’d thrown two good sliders earlier in the at-bat, but the third hung up a little bit for Nick Hundley. “I think I was just trying to overthrow the last one,” Warren said.
• Would make sense that the relievers might feel exhausted at this point. “We’re not fresh, obviously,” Warren said. “But I wouldn’t say we’re going out there pitching injured. We’re still going out there, throwing hard, breaking stuff’s still sharp, so I wouldn’t say that’s an issue.”
• Jeter on the ball up the middle that went off his glove in that two-run fourth inning: “I didn’t help (Kuroda) out,” Jeter said. “Groundball up the middle, should have had a force at second base, and it went off my glove. I didn’t help him in that situation. … It bounced a little higher than I thought, plus I took a peek at the runner, so that’s a bad combination. Especially when you’re playing a team like Baltimore, you can’t give them extra outs.”
• Brian Roberts on his first-pitch home run in his first at-bat as a visitor in Camden Yards. “Home runs always feel good, it doesn’t really matter where you are. It’s not like I want to hit a homer off of Miguel Gonzalez any more than I want to hit off anybody else. Obviously I’ve got a lot of good buddies over there and obviously I’ve spent a lot of time with all of them. It was just fun to be back here. I love this place, it was a great atmosphere, and I certainly wish we would’ve gotten a win more than anything.”
• Kuroda was asked if he feels any added pressure now that 80 percent of the would-be-starters are on the disabled list. “I don’t know about pressure,” he said. “But I want to make sure that I stay healthy and stay in the rotation the rest of the year.”
It hurt the Yankees when Brian Roberts couldn’t advance the runner on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the ninth. To be fair, though, Chris Davis made a really great charging play to get the out at second base. “It’s a tremendous play,” Girardi said. “There aren’t many first basemen that are going to make that play. He did a tremendous job.”
• One bright side is Dellin Betances who was dominant again. Two hitless innings with three strikeouts and a hit batter. He now has 84 strikeouts this season, the most among all Major League relievers. This was the 31st time that he struck out at least two batters in a game.
• Brett Gardner’s 24-game on-base streak came to an end. … McCann has a hit in seven of his past eight games. … Kelly Johnson’s sixth home run of the season was his seventh homer in 21 career games at Camden Yards. He’s homered twice in 13 career at-bats against Miguel Gonzalez. … Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .400 in seven games against Baltimore this season.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “(Loses) are all hard. We’re playing Baltimore, obviously they’re in first place, and you don’t want to lose a game like that. But you’ve got to come out and win tomorrow. … You have two tough loses (in a row), but you’ve got to bounce back. That’s part of it. That’s part of the game.”
Associated Press photos