The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.
At times, he looked like more than that.
“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”
Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.
“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.
“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.
• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.
• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”
• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”
• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.
• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?
• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”
• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”
• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.
• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.
• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees could have used a rain out tonight. Here’s David Ginsburg from The Associated Press to wrap up the latest Yankees disappointment. By the way, I have to agree with Girardi on the call at first base. Not sure Stephen Drew should have been called out on that one.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Maybe Yankees manager Joe Girardi got lucky with his 26th career ejection: He didn’t have to watch from the dugout as New York blew a late lead in a painful defeat.
Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones homered in a four-run eighth inning that carried the AL East-leading Orioles to a 5-3 win Wednesday night.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Yankees, who fell eight games out in the division with 43 to play. At this juncture, winning the AL East just might be too formidable a task.
“I think we’re looking more at the second wild-card spot. That’s a little bit better number, it’s a little more achievable at this point,” said reliever Shawn Kelley, who gave up Jones’ game-winning shot.
Girardi missed the finish after being ejected in the seventh inning by home plate umpire Gerry Davis. Girardi was furious after Davis called New York’s Stephen Drew out for running in the baseline on his way to first base.
“Yeah, well, Gerry was wrong,” Girardi said.
Girardi’s second ejection of the year came with New York ahead 2-1 on the strength of Francisco Cervelli’s second home run of the year, a two-run drive in the third inning off Chris Tillman.
The lead didn’t stand up, and now the Yankees are scrambling to stay in the playoff hunt.
“We’ve got to start winning series again,” Girardi said. “We have not won the last two series and we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”
Cervelli said, “We can do it. This is not done yet.”
After Schoop tied it with a drive off Dellin Betances, Kelley (2-4) gave up a single and a walk before Jones hit a shot into the bullpen area beyond the center-field wall.
“We had a lead late, and that’s one thing we’ve done well as a whole as a bullpen,” Kelley said. “A lot of that’s on me tonight.”
Darren O’Day (4-1) worked the eighth and Zach Britton gave up a run in the ninth en route to his 25th save.
“It’s tough right now because they are hitting very good,” Cervelli said. “They’ve got a couple of hitters who are really hot right now.”
Making his first appearance in the big leagues since April 23, New York starter Michael Pineda retired the first 12 batters he faced before Nelson Cruz doubled to open the fifth.
Pineda allowed one run and two hits over five innings. After being suspended for 10 games for using a foreign substance on the mound in April, the right-hander went on the disabled list with a shoulder muscle injury. He left after throwing 67 pitches.
“We thought he started getting the ball up a little bit,” Girardi said.
Baltimore played without its two starters on the left side of the infield. Third baseman Manny Machado was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee ligament and shortstop J.J. Hardy missed a third straight game with a sprained left thumb.
Tillman gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings.
Associated Press photos
Yankees bullpen throws zeroes • 05.15.13
After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.
“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”
Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.
Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.
Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.
“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.
“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Thursday morning notes: Phelps faces hitters • 02.14.13
Around 9 a.m., David Phelps went to the mound on the main field here in Tampa. He wasn’t tucked away in the back, wasn’t shuffled to the minor league complex. He was in front of the empty seats, facing live hitters, throwing live batting practice on just the second day of workouts at Steinbrenner Field.
“I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression,” Phelps said. “It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp.”
Last year Phelps made an impression and got an unexpected opportunity. What he did with that opportunity has made him a favorite to win at least a spot in the Yankees bullpen, and it’s given him at least a chance of being out Ivan Nova for the last spot in the rotation.
This morning Phelps threw 30 pitches while facing Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson.
“I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do,” Phelps said. “If being sent down to the minors and keeping starting is what’s in the best interest of the team and helping them win, that’s obviously what I’ll do. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, whatever role that might be. I’m just going to go out and try to do my job on the field and let that take care of itself.”
• So far, no sign of new reliever Shawn Kelley. Not sure when he’s supposed to arrive.
• With so many pitchers already facing hitters — and so few position players currently in big league camp — the Yankees are actually sending a van over to the minor league complex later this morning. A dozen pitchers will go to the complex to throw live batting practice to the hitters across the street.
• Four pitchers threw live batting practice here at Steinbrenner Field this morning. Phelps, Adam Warren, Cody Eppley and Brett Marshall. Throwing programs assigned to minor leaguers started a little earlier than usual this winter, which helps explain why so many guys are ready to face hitters already.
• Phelps threw to J.R. Murphy and Marshall threw to Gary Sanchez. Those two faced Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. Eppley threw to Kyle Higashioka and Warren threw to Francisco Arcia. Those two faced Chris Stewart and Austin Romine.
• Early sides: Joba Chamberlain (to Stewart) and Ivan Nova (to Cervelli).
• Going to the complex to throw live batting practice: Corey Black, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Nick Goody, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Mark Montgomery, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Nik Turley and Chase Whitley.
• Bullpens at Steinbrenner Field (with the catcher they’ll throw to):
Dellin Betances (Romine)
Jose Ramirez (Arcia)
Dave Robertson (Wilson)
Francisco Rondon (Higashioka)
Josh Spence (Sanchez)
Cell phone photo of Phelps throwing BP, Associated Press photo of Sabathia