The Yankees didn’t just beat the Rangers in the series opener on Tuesday, they beat them in a very un-Yankees-like way. Well, at least a very un-2013 Yankees-like way. New York actually hit the ball out of the park in the 4-3 victory.
Too Many Homers
Homers? Homers! Oh how much I’ve missed them. Sweet, glorious dingers. Did you know that prior to Tuesday’s game, the Yankees had hit a total of four (!) homers in their last 15 (!) games? That’s ridiculous. Four homers used to be a bad series for this team, but these are much different times. Thankfully, the Yankees went back to their roots and hit the ball out over the fence en route to beating the Rangers.
The first of the four homers was a Travis Hafner solo shot in the fourth, which came against a hanging Yu Darvish breaking ball. It was on a tee and gone off the bat. Very little doubt about that one. The second was a Brett Gardner solo homer in the fifth, off another hanging breaking ball. This one wasn’t hung as badly, though. Gardner actually hit the ball farther out than Hafner, believe it or not. The third was yet another solo shot, this one off the bat of Jayson Nix in the sixth. And yes, it was another hanging breaking ball. Unlike Hafner and Gardner, Nix hit his out to left field.
The fourth of the four homers came after it looked as though the Yankees were going to squander a prime scoring opportunity. Chris Stewart drew a four-pitch walk to leadoff the ninth, but he was erased at second on Gardner’s fielder’s choice. Gardner was then thrown out trying to steal, his sixth caught stealing in 17 attempts. That 64.7% success rate is way, way too low for a player like him. He came into the year with an 82.2% success rate and that’s where he needs to be. Hopefully Gardner improves that in the second half.
Anyway, Ichiro Suzuki picked up his teammates with a two-out, two-strike solo homer off reliever Tanner Scheppers. It was a 97 mph two-seam fastball according to PitchFX, so Ichiro had to really get his bat around quick to hit it out. Scheppers tried to put the ol’ Bartolo Colon for the called strike three, throwing the two-seamer inside and hoping it would dart back across the corner. Instead, he caught way too much of the plate and Ichiro turned it right around for no-doubter. It was New York’s first walk-off win of the season.
Coming into the game, Darvish was center of attention. That’s no surprise — he’s one of best and certainly one of the most fascinating pitchers in the world. When a guy like that comes to the Bronx, all eyes are on him. Until the Yankees started playing Homerun Derby in the middle innings, he had lived up to the hype as well.
Hiroki Kuroda, meanwhile, chugged along with little fanfare, as he tends to do. He outpitched his countryman by quite a bit, putting up a 59 Game Score to Darvish’s 46. Kuroda did surrender a pair of solo homers to Leonys Martin, Texas’ number nine hitter, but otherwise he struck out six, walked one, and allowed just three singles in 6.2 innings. He had plenty left in the tank (99 pitches) to record the final out of the seventh, but Joe Girardi pulled him in fave of Boone Logan to get the left-on-left matchup against Martin. Kuroda wasn’t great but he was damn effective, stealing the show from Darvish.
Big ups to the bullpen for 2.1 scoreless innings, even if they did put three men on base. Logan struck out Martin to end the seventh, then David Robertson pitched around a single and a walk in the eighth. Mariano Rivera pitched around a single in the ninth. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but they got the job done and gave the offense a chance to win in the late innings after being down 2-0 and 3-1 earlier in the game.
Ichiro and Hafner were the only Yankees with two hits, yet the top four hitters in the order did go 6-for-17 (.353) with three homers. The bottom five spots went 2-for-18 (.111) with the one homer. Lyle Overbay (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) and David Adams (0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts) were particularly dreadful. Overbay contributed to a blown bases loaded opportunity in the first and a blown first-and-third opportunity in the fifth, both times with less than two outs. The Yankees need to start thinking about finding a new first baseman given Mark Teixeira‘s continued wrist problems.
Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in the world, but he botched two plays in this game. First he pulled the first baseman off the bag with an errant throw on a pretty routine grounder, then he had a line drive hit right off his glove and deflect into the outfield. That play wasn’t routine, but it was hit right at him and it hit the mitt. A big leaguer has to make that play. Beltre was charged with two errors for the first time since June 7th, 2010. Neither led to a run, so no harm, no foul.
And finally, I’ll close with this: the walk-off blast was only the second walk-off homer of Ichiro’s career. The other? It came against Mo back in September 2009. Symmetry, or something.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the standings. The Orioles and Red Sox won while the Rays beat the Blue Jays, so the Yankees are one back of Boston, one up on Baltimore, three up on Tampa, and four up on Toronto in the loss column.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when Andy Pettitte gets the ball against Justin Grimm. Grimm is 86.2 innings into his big league career and Pettitte might only have 86.2 left in his. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum with that matchup. RAB Tickets is the place to go if you want to see that one live.