Bartolo Colon pulled a Hiroki Kuroda last night, shutting out the much-hyped Angels over eight innings. More impressively, he threw 38 consecutive strikes from the fifth through eighth innings. Thirty-eight! Here’s video if you don’t believe me. Colon had no problem pounding the zone with the Yankees last year, but sheesh, this is excessive. Bartday was my favorite day of the week in the first half last season, and now the Oakland faithful get to enjoy the fun.
The Twins came into this four-game set with just two wins on the season, and they’ve managed to double that total with one game to spare in the series. Yeah, this one isn’t going according to plan. To make matters worse, Brett Gardner was placed on the DL after the game with a bone bruise and a strain in his right elbow.
A Bad Start
I wrote this two days ago, but there’s nothing yuckier than giving up first inning runs at home. You’re playing catch-up before you even come to the plate and it’s just frustrating. The Yankees were down a run two batters into the game, two runs three batters into the game, and four runs five batters in the game. Justin Morneau capped the first inning rally off with a two-run homer to deep right, continuing his dominance of the Yankees. Like Carlos Pena, they’ll get around to developing a decent scouting report on him one of these days.
Hiroki Kuroda was simply catching too much of the plate, especially with his offspeed pitches. Morneau’s homer was a first pitch fastball, but most of the other hits came off breaking pitches that spun but didn’t break. He was fortunate to get out of that first inning down four, but Minnesota tacked on another run in the third when Sean freakin’ Burroughs grounded a 30-hopper through the left side. That one was frustrating, it wasn’t well hit at all. Hiroki retired the next six men he faced before Morneau took him deep again — on a hanging breaking ball — in the fifth, ending his night.
A Nice Recovery … But Not Enough
On the bright side, the Yankees fought right back and managed to plate three runs in the bottom of the first. Jason Marquis was making his first start of the season after spending time away from the team to be with his daughter after her bicycle accident, and the rust showed. Six of the first seven men the Yankees sent to the plate reached base, and the inning went single, walk, fly out, double (run scores), single (two runs score), single, then walk before Eric Chavez grounded into a double play to end the rally. He hit the ball harder than Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez, who slapped ground ball singles through the infield. Chavez just hit it right at the second baseman. It happens.
The Yankees kept it close thanks to Robinson Cano‘s third inning solo homer, but they squandered rallies in the fourth and seventh innings. They’ve done that a few times this year — score runs early then fail to tack on any more — and it’s incredibly frustrating. The Yankees have scored the second most runs in the league, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. At some point the pitching has to hold up its end of the bargain.
I don’t get the whole pinch-hitting thing. Eduardo Nunez pinch-hit for Chavez down two runs with a man on base in the sixth … and then Alex Rodriguez pinch-hit for Russell Martin to lead off the ninth down two. Does not compute. I assume Joe Girardi didn’t want A-Rod to play the field on his day off, but good grief, it makes no sense. At least pinch-hit Alex for Chavez then use Nunez in the field or something.
Derek Jeter continues to be the Yankees’ best player, going 3-for-5 with a solo homer to raise his season batting line to .389/.404/.685. He’s hit four homers in a dozen games this year. It took him 79 games to hit four homers last season. Mark Teixeira (two singles), Ibanez (two singles), and Cano (double and homer) each had two hits as well. You’re never going to believe this, but the Yankees went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position as a team. That’s better than 1-for-12 or 2-for-16 or some of the other ungodly rates they were putting up a few weeks ago, I guess.
Andruw Jones is arguably the greatest defensive outfielder in baseball history, but he totally lollygagged it on Alexi Casilla’s double in the top of the eighth. He was probably going to be safe at second anyway, but good grief man, show some effort. Physical errors are part of the game and are forgivable, but mental errors and laziness like that is inexcusable.
Not sure if you saw it or if I’m imagining things, but someone threw something — looked like a blue cup — at Clete Thomas as he caught Teixeira’s fly ball to end the game. Not cool people, not cool.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The finale of this four game set will be played Thursday night, when Phil Hughes gets the start against
Nick Blackburn Anthony Swarzak. It would be nice if Hughes pitched not terribly. RAB Tickets can help get you in the door.
Update (11:21pm): Via Sweeny Murti, Gardner has a bone bruise and a strain in his right elbow. It happened making that catch Tuesday night. No word on the timetable for his return, but Joe Girardi indicated that he could be back in 15 days during his post-game press conference.
10:44pm: Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees will place Brett Gardner on the disabled list and recall right-handed reliever Cody Eppley. Gardner was a late scratch tonight due to stiffness in his right elbow, and it’s obviously something more than routine soreness if he’s already on the shelf. If you remember, he made an sliding catch in last night’s game and appeared to land on his arm/wrist awkwardly. He said after the game that he was fine, but you never know.
I hope the Eppley move is just temporary; I’m not a big fan of 13-man pitching staffs. The Yankees don’t have any Triple-A outfielders on the 40-man roster, but they can easily make room for Dewayne Wise — who’s hitting the snot out of the ball so far — or Chris Dickerson by sliding Joba Chamberlain or Cesar Cabral over to the 60-day DL. I suppose it depends on Gardner’s diagnosis and his recovery time.
Triple-A Empire State (2-0 win over Rochester)
LF Ray Kruml: 1-4, 1 K
SS Doug Bernier, DH Jack Cust, 3B Kevin Russo, RF Colin Curtis & C Craig Tatum: all 0-3 — Bernier, Russo, Curtis, and Tatum all struck out once
CF Dewayne Wise: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — missed a few games because he was banged up, and he comes back mashing like he never left
1B Steve Pearce: 2-3, 2 RBI
2B Ramiro Pena: 1-3, 1 R, 1 K
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 60 of 86 pitches were strikes (69.8%), also picked a runner off first … retired the last eleven men he faced … I’m surprised they didn’t let him finish this one off, you don’t see too many CG SO in the minors
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — seven of 11 pitches were strikes
Five days ago, Hiroki Kuroda opened the Bronx portion of the Yankees’ schedule with a bang, shutting out the Angels over eight-plus innings. Tonight he gets the much less hyped Twins, who have put up a nice little fight over the first two games of the series. You can’t expect Kuroda to repeat his last start tonight, but gosh darn it, I sure hope he does. Here’s the starting nine…
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
Tonight’s game starts at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Update: Brett Gardner is a late scratch will right elbow soreness. Andruw Jones is playing left field
When Chris Stewart stepped to the plate with men on second and third with no outs last night, many — including the YES Network booth — saw it as an opportunity for a squeeze bunt. Stewart is an awful hitter, but he instead swung away and grounded out to third, unable to advance the runners. Joe Girardi said today that he didn’t even consider a squeeze in that spot. Marc Carig wrote about the squeeze non-call today, and found that the Yankees haven’t scored a single run on a squeeze play under Joe Girardi’s watch. Fans of smallball tactics will disapprove, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“That the Yankees would have such a weak hitter at the plate with runners on — as they did with Stewart last night — is in itself an aberration,” wrote Carig, referring the team’s perpetually potent offense. “So, if anything, the fact that the Yankees rarely bother with squeeze plays is an indication that Girardi is smart enough to manage to the strength of his team.” Stewart went on to drive in three runs later in the game, another aberration. I’m not a bunting kind of guy but there is a time and a place for that stuff. The third inning is not that time, however.
Today on NJ.com, Marc Carig posted a quick hit on Hiroki Kuroda’s stance on hitting. When asked if he missed taking at-bats in the National League, Kuroda replied, “I don’t miss it at all.” Tonight Kuroda will make his third American League start, and he’ll be going against a fellow newcomer to the Junior Circuit. Jason Marquis has spent parts of 12 seasons in the NL, starting with the Braves and moving onto the Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. Now, at age 33, he makes is AL debut. Life could get a bit rougher for him, too.
Like Kuroda, Marquis won’t miss holding a bat. In 625 career PA he’s a .197/.216/.283 hitter. In the last three seasons he’s gone 22 for 132, a .167 average, with just two walks. The only problem, however, is that while Marquis himself will not hold a bat, he also won’t face any opposing pitchers. That could be quite an issue for the low-strikeout Marquis.
For his career Marquis has struck out 974 of 7328 total batters faced, or a paltry 13.3 percent. Yet of those 974 strikeouts, 173 have come against the opposing pitcher. That amounts to 18 percent of his career strikeouts. Moreover, his career strikeout rate against pitchers is 33.1 percent, against 11.8 percent against non-pitchers. Last year only three qualified pitchers had strikeout rates below 11.8 percent: Jeff Francis, Carl Pavano, and Brad Penny. The results there weren’t particularly pretty.
What’s worse for Marquis is that his strikeout rate has declined since his mid-20s. From his age-21 through his age-25 seasons he struck out 16 percent of opposing batters. But from his age-26 through his age-32 seasons he has struck out just just 12.1 percent of all batters. Again, combined with his strikeout rate against pitchers — 30 percent since 2005 — it adds up to trouble when facing pitcher-less AL lineups. That goes doubly for a high-powered offense such as the Yankees.
From all appearances, Marquis seems set up to fail. He’s a lifetime NL pitcher who has a hard time generating swings and misses in the first place. Now he’s moving to the AL, where he not only has no pitcher on whom to pick, but also a full-time hitter with whom to contend. It makes me wonder whether we’re in store for what Mike terms a reverse lock. Are the Yanks so well match against Marquis that they’re destined for failure? I damn well hope not. This is one guy the Yanks should pound on and pick up a relatively easy victory against.