Key to Game 3: Kuroda & Martin vs. Flaherty

Thoughts following Game Three
An Ode to Raul

The Yankees and Orioles have played three very tight games in the ALDS so far, and last night Raul Ibanez took matters into his own hands by hitting both a game-tying and game-winning solo homer after coming off the bench in the ninth inning. His insanely clutch performance will get a ton of attention today and rightfully so, but one man can not win a baseball game by himself no matter how many homers he hits.

Before Ibanez worked his magic, starter Hiroki Kuroda gave the Yankees more than eight innings of two-run ball. He allowed solo homers to the eight- and nine-hole hitters, but otherwise he held Baltimore in check and especially in the late innings. Kuroda did run into trouble in the fourth though, as some shoddy defense, a hit, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with two outs. Ryan Flaherty, who hit the first solo homer, was at the plate with a chance to break things open when Kuroda started him with a first pitch inside two-seamer for a called strike. Here is the second pitch of the at-bat…

(Click to embiggen)

I wrote briefly about the benefit of pitch framing yesterday, and that’s a perfect example of a borderline pitch getting called a strike with some help from Russell Martin‘s nifty glovework. PitchFX does have the pitch off the plate but not wildly so, enough that it could have been called either way.

Now the at-bat didn’t even end with that pitch, but it did turn a potential 1-1 count into an 0-2 count. An 0-2 count is the worst possible count a hitter can face, and the difference between those two counts was over .200 OPS points in the AL this season. It’s a massive shift in the game situation, changing everything from how Kuroda and Martin pitch to Flaherty’s approach to possibly even where the defense sets up. Flaherty grounded out weakly on the next pitch, a jam shot fastball up-and-in that may have been intended to set up a splitter on the next pitch more than actually get an out.

Kuroda really had to battle in the early innings last night, and Martin did a good job nursing through his early command issues. Flaherty isn’t a world burner, but he went deep one inning prior and had a really great power stretch just a few weeks ago. I don’t want to say the game was on the line in that fourth inning at-bat, but a hit there to score even one more run changes the complexion of the entire game. Stealing that strike two on the borderline pitch was an important part of the chess match that got Kuroda and the Yankees through the inning and kept the game manageable.

Thoughts following Game Three
An Ode to Raul
  • Eddards

    I like Martin but sometimes I don’t think he’s paying attention to what happened earlier in the ballgame. The Os could not hit Kuroda’s two seamer or sinking fastball. Martin calls for a first pitch slider vs Flaherty, solo HR. So later on in the game he calls for another first pitch slider vs Machado, solo HR. That could have been the game and the series if not for Raul’s heroics.

    • YeeSawn

      The one to Machado isn’t a bad pitch if Kuroda doesn’t throw it middle at the letters. But a get me over first pitch slider to a lefty in this stadium in a tie game was horrible pitch selection.

    • Hall and Nokes

      Kuroda missed his spot on both HRs. On the Flaherty HR, Martin was set up on the outside, pretty much the exact same spot as the pitch that’s featured in this article.

      • YeeSawn

        Backdoor sliders are the hardest pitch to control and are more likely to hang in the middle of the plate. You see the location of the first pitch in that video? Right on the inside corner. Now, Flaherty has to respect that pitch and Kuroda can take the risk of going backdoor with the slider b/c Flaherty can’t just hang over the plate and wait for it to come back in the zone.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      You’re just looking for a reason to blame Martin. Kuroda always has the option of shaking off a pitch.

  • youngmanalex

    in order of PROPS FOR THE GAME:

    1. Ibanez = we all know why
    2. Hiroki = I think he did andy one better
    3. Tex = dude was a defensive machine tonight, he took away a few hits for sure.
    4. AROD = this is kind of odd, but you gotta give it to the guy for being the first one on the steps. Saying all the right things in the media. He really seems like he wants to win and kept a complete straight face about it.
    5. D-ROB = lights out
    6. Jeter = for apparently inspiring the players. that dude was really hurt, and I was cringing every time the ball was hit in his vicinity.

    • MB923

      I’d put Martin somewhere up there. For calling the game, and also being the only Yankee besides Ibanez to get 2 hits And score a run (although of course Jeter also had 2 hits and drove in an RBI to get Martin’s run, although Jeter’s hit and RBI came from a bit of help from Jones’ miscue.

      Good list, except I’d remove A-Rod without question, and put Martin in there somewhere.

    • stuart a

      arod props for cheering.. the guy makes $25 mill per year and is part of the team.. giving props for that is like giving props for breathing, it is understood.

      • jjyank


      • Robinson Tilapia

        Ah, the moments where I find myself agreeing with stuart.

        Give me a raise.

      • youngmanalex

        yea i was just being sensitive and appreciative to the headcase that is AROD. if he started the whole “no comment” sulking trip with the media… there would be a lot of ink spilled in NY for the wrong reasons.

        • Robinson Tilapia (I BELIEVE IN PHIL HUGHES)

          I actually thought there was zero chance of him doing what you suggest. His reaction was about what I expected.

          The “headcase” stuff is so overstated.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Props to the Mets for making the post season. Wait, what, they didn’t? AGAIN? How many years in a row is that? Well, they are decendants of the Bums, so there’s always next year.

        I guess there’s nothing for their disgruntled fans to do but to post their bitterness on a Yankees blog.

  • Rich in NJ

    The homeplate ump called quite a few pitches that were outside the TBS strikezone a strike last night.

    • goterpsgo

      As long as he was “consistent” for both sides, I suppose…

  • Cords

    I agree that Grandy should sit, but I’d put Ichiro in center and then keep Ibanez in the lineup in left. Can someone pass this on to Girardi as he seems to be listening to the fans finally:)

    • MB923

      Not sure if I trust Raul in the OF (unless it’s RF cause it’s the shortest at the stadium) with a fly ball pitcher on the mound.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      Idk about Ibanez starting tonight…one he’s awful in the outfield, and two, as big as that homer against Matusz(sp?) was it was only his 9th homer against a LHP since the start of the 2010 season. To put that in perspective that’s 9 Homers in over 300 PA’s.

      • JLC 776

        Definitely agree! Ibanez has been money as a PH, not a starter. Keep that round in the chamber for when you need it.

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

        It’s actually 394…I just realized how weak “over 300” sounds in comparison to 394.

  • JLC 776

    Hopes for tonight:

    An early lead (and how poetic would it be if A-Rod connects – I’m really cheering for the guy) that creates a lot of crowd noise throughout the game.

    Good Hughes keeps the pitching train going.

    Deep counts with a few hard hit balls. Positive signs that the offense is starting to get it together.

    An emphatic untuck and a dogpile!

    • vicki

      every word of this.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    The great Flaherty! A rookie batting 8th with 6 HR’s. Let’s not overanalyze perfect pitches to him. Kuroda is great and a few mistakes were hit out unfortunately.

    More worried about HR’s tonight.

    no Raul in LF-let’s not get carried away here folks.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    The umpire is supposed to be looking at where the ball crosses the plate, not where it ends up. If he’s looking at the latter then he’s a lousy umpire. If it were possible to do a questionaire of all the umps about this, I’m sure that’s what they would say. I have a hard time believing all of this pitch framing thing and chalk it up to some saber guy trying to sell a book.

  • Robinson Tilapia (I BELIEVE IN PHIL HUGHES)

    Much easier to appreciate these things about Martin when he’s not a zero at the plate.

    I thought both him and Kuroda were great last night. I think many were worried as to Kuroda’s innings total and those last few outings, but he really rose to the task.

  • CG

    “one man can not win a baseball game by himself no matter how many homers he hits”


  • CG

    meant to add a /troll up there, lol

  • awesomeo

    Hope we lock martin up for 3ish years. Love players who want to be Yankees, and love his attitude, defense, and the pitchers obviously like him too.