Lifeless: Tigers shut Yankees out in Game Two

The Yankees have become a broken record of great pitching and abysmal offense. Sunday afternoon’s Game Two loss put them in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven ALCS as things now shift to Detroit. Not for nothing, but getting out of Yankee Stadium is probably a good thing.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

#HIROKtober Doesn’t Need Rest

The decision to start Hiroki Kuroda on short rest in Game Two was anything but a slam dunk as valid concerns about the 37-year-old’s workload were abound for the last month or so. Instead of wilting under the innings total and struggling as many expected, Kuroda turned in a masterpiece. He took a perfect game into the sixth and ultimately lasted 7.2 innings that should have been a full eight had second base ump Jeff Nelson not blown a call — Nick Swisher threw behind the runner at second on Austin Jackson’s single and Robinson Cano applied the tag for the third out with ease. Nelson blew the call — here’s proof he was out — and Kuroda’s night was over.

All told, the veteran right-hander allowed three runs in those 7.2 innings, but two of those runs scored after he left the game and the B-relievers took over. Boone Logan allowed a hit to a righty (surprise surprise) and Joba Chamberlain allowed a hit to Miguel Cabrera. Kuroda allowed just five hits (four singles), didn’t walk anyone, and struck out a season-high eleven. Ten of his 12 ball-in-play outs were on the ground. He was dominant, looking more like the midseason version of himself than a guy pushing 240 innings. It’s unbelievable that the Yankees haven’t converted these pitching performances into wins.

(Elsa/Getty)

This Offense Creates The Wrong Kind Of Runs

Three singles, three walks (one intentional), and a double. That was the New York offense on Sunday. Mark Teixeira (double) and Raul Ibanez (walk) reached base with two outs in the first and Ichiro Suzuki made it to third base with two outs in the seventh, but no runs crossed the plate. Ibanez singled to leadoff the fourth but was erased on a botched hit-and-run with Russell Martin at the plate, a clear sign that the Yankees are getting desperate to generate offense.

The futility, as you know, runs up and down the lineup. Cano took an 0-for-4 and is now hitless since the first inning of Game Two of the ALDS, a span of 26 at-bats. That is the longest playoff hitless streak in team history. The bottom four hitters in the order went a combined 2-for-17 (singles by Alex Rodriguez and Swisher) with a walk (Curtis Granderson) and nine strikeouts. Ichiro reached base on an error once in four plate appearances in his first day as Derek Jeter‘s replacement in the leadoff spot. Joe Girardi semi-tore into his club for not making adjustments after the game, a problem that they simply may not have enough time to fix.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

Leftovers

Girardi got ejected for arguing with Nelson following the blown call at second — his fifth ejection of 2012 and fourth in a game against the Tigers — and went a big instant reply rant after the game. He basically said what most fans have been thinking, that it’s ridiculous that the technology exists and is not being used. That said, Girardi made it clear that he does not blame the call (or yesterday’s blown call on Cano at first base) for the two losses to open the series. He was just stating the obvious.

Detroit scored their first run in the seventh after Kuroda nearly pitched his way out of a first and third situation with no outs. The speedy Quintin Berry was on third, the slow-footed Cabrera on third. He threw five straight splitters to Prince Fielder to strike the lefty slugger out, then Delmon Young bounced a routine double play ball to short. Fill-in shortstop Jayson Nix shuffled the ball to Cano for the first out, but he bobbled the transfer and that was that. Young was safe at first without a throw and Berry scored. Kuroda was so close to escaping the jam unscathed, but his defense betrayed him. Between that and the utter lack of run support this season, the guy must hate his teammates.

The Yankees have scored a total of 20 runs in their seven playoff games, including just eleven in the five games at home. The scored four runs in the two games against the Tigers this weekend, and all four came in one inning off the combustible Jose Valverde. In fact, non-Valverde pitchers have thrown 40.1 consecutive scoreless innings for Detroit, which is ridiculous. And I thought the Yankees were getting great pitching.

Box Score & WPA Graph

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights. I suppose the good news is that the Yankees have been down 2-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series eight times in their history, and they’ve rebounded to win the series four times. The most recent was, of course, the 1996 World Series against the Braves. Who will be the 2012 Jim Leyritz? For some reason Martin seems too obvious, so I’ll say Nix. Anyway, the last team to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven was (sadface) the 2004 Red Sox.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Monday is a travel day, so the Yankees (and their fans) will get a much needed day off. These two teams will reconvene at Comerica Park for Game Three on Tuesday night at 8pm ET. Phil Hughes is scheduled to get the ball against Justin Verlander in a mismatch that already went New York’s way once this season. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game.

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Kuroda will start Game Two on short rest

4:39pm: Girardi confirmed that Kuroda will indeed start Game Two tomorrow, and he’ll be followed by Phil Hughes in Game Three and CC Sabathia in Game Four (on normal rest) regardless of the series score. If there’s a Game Seven, I assume Sabathia would start on short rest.

4:19pm: Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will start Game Two of the ALCS tomorrow night according to various reports. Joe Girardi has not confirmed the news, for what it’s worth.

Kuroda, 37, will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career after throwing 105 pitches in Game Three of the ALDS on Wednesday. Pretty much the only other option was pulling long man David Phelps out of the bullpen. The Yankees added an extra reliever (Cody Eppley) to the roster today and will have Monday off, so there will be a full complement of relievers backing Kuroda up.

Ibanez comes off the bench, carries Yankees to Game Three win

This was shaping up to be a very bad night. The Yankees looked lifeless for the first eight innings of Game Three and were two outs away from a 2-1 series deficit … but Raul Ibanez. Baseball has a way of making your jaw drop, and Ibanez provided not one, but two jaw-dropping moments on Wednesday night.

(Alex Trautwig/Getty)

There Is Only One #HIROKtober

As hideous as the offense has been, the Yankees have been getting some absolutely stellar work from their pitching staff this series. Hiroki Kuroda followed the lead of CC Sabathia (8.2 innings and two runs in Game One) and Andy Pettitte (seven innings and three runs in Game Two) with 8.1 strong innings in Game Three, allowing just two solo homers and five total hits. Both homers came on first pitch sliders, the first by number eight hitter Ryan Flaherty in the third and the second by number nine hitter Manny Machado in the fifth. Machado hit a hanger up in the zone, but the pitch to Flaherty wasn’t bad at all. It was at the knees and he golfed it out.

Outside of the two homers, Kuroda was pretty dynamite. He pitched out of a defense-created bases loaded jam in the fourth and retired 12 of the final 13 men he faced after Machado’s dinger. Command, especially of the splitter, was a bit of an issue early on, but Kuroda figured things out later on and wound up throwing 65 of his 105 pitches were strikes (62%). That’s usually nothing special, but after the first few innings it was pretty damn good. All told, the Yankees have gotten a 2.63 ERA out of their top three starters in the series. These guys have been brilliant and it seems to be flying under the radar.

Mr. Big Hit

(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees plated their first run in the third inning, when Derek Jeter tripled in Russell Martin with two outs. Center fielder Adam Jones deserves a huge assist for the play, I have no idea what the hell he was doing going after the ball. That ball was very catchable and Jones just seemed to be moving in slow motion as he went back to the wall. Whatever, I’m not complaining.

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez stymied the Yankees after that though, as he retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced following the triple. After pitching very well in Yankee Stadium during the regular season, the 28-year-old rookie carried it over into the playoffs and held the Bombers to just the one run in seven innings with his fastball-changeup-slider mix. He pitched very well and deserves some credit, but the Yankees looked rather feeble at times.

After Darren O’Day breezed through the eighth inning, closer Jim Johnson entered the game in the ninth and promptly retired Ichiro Suzuki on a fly ball to left. Alex Rodriguez, 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on the night and 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts in the series, was due up next, but Joe Girardi instead pinch-hit with Ibanez. There’s been a lot of talk about moving A-Rod down in the lineup given his lack of production, but the skipper again batted him third to start the game. Down a run with two outs to play, Girardi said told Alex he had been struggling and he wanted to give Raul a shot with the short porch. “My gut told me to make the move … (it) was the best thing to do,” said Joe after the game.

Just like Martin in Game One, Johnson fell behind in the count to Ibanez and left a sinker up the zone. Raul did what he does best, and lately that’s been come up with enormous homers. He tied a game in the 13th inning against the Athletics three weeks ago, tied a game against the Red Sox last week, and tied up Game Three of the ALDS with a solo shot to right. It wasn’t hit particularly deep but it wasn’t a Yankee Stadium cheapie either. The game was tied and the first one to greet Raul with a high five in the dugout was A-Rod. I love and hate that guy so much.

Beat Them At Their Own Game

The Orioles have been lauded for their dominant bullpen all season and rightfully so, as their relief corps have been nailing down one-run wins since Opening Day. The Yankees turned the tables a bit on Wednesday, as three relievers — Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, and David Robertson — combined to allow just two baserunners in 3.1 innings of work following Kuroda. Logan struck out the only man he faced (Jim Thome), Rafael Soriano finished the ninth and handled the tenth, then David Robertson tossed up zeroes in the 11th and 12th. It’ll be long forgotten come the morning, but the bullpen deserves major props for holding down the fort.

(Alex Trautwig/Getty)

Just Get It To Raul

“Just get it to A-Rod” is a phrase I’ve muttered many, many times through the years whenever the Yankees were losing in the late innings. Just get Alex another at-bat and he could make it alright with one swing. After being lifted in Game Three — A-Rod joked after the game that it was the first time he was pinch-hit for since high school, and I can only assume that coach was fired soon thereafter — things had shifted to “just get it to Raul.”

The bullpen allowed Ibanez to come to bat again in the 12th, an inning he led off against the left-hander Brian Matusz. I’ve been crushing Girardi for leaving Ibanez in against tough southpaws in the late innings of tight games all season, but I am very glad to look like an idiot now. Raul hammered the first pitch of the inning, a high fastball on the outer third, into the second deck in right for a walk-off solo homer. You could see his True Yankee™ wings sprout as he rounded the bases with Yankee Stadium rocking and his teammates waiting at home plate.

At +.827 WPA, Ibanez just had the fifth biggest playoff game in baseball history, and all he saw was three pitches in two at-bats. He also became the first player in baseball history to homer twice in a playoff game he didn’t start. That goes back to 1903. The Orioles had gone 76-0 when leading after seven innings during the regular season, so this was their first loss of 2012 in those situations. Baltimore is also 0-3 against the Yankees in extra innings this year and 16-0 against everyone else. Ibanez made some big things happen in Game Three. Big, big things.

Leftovers

(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees only had seven baserunners in the 12 innings … well, eleven innings and one batter. Jeter went 2-for-4 with a triple, Russell Martin went 2-for-4 with a double, and Nick Swisher went 1-for-4 with a single. Ibanez’s two dingers account for the other two baserunners. The Yankees didn’t draw a single walk, so the rest of the team went a combined 0-for-25. Not good, Raul really bailed them out.

Jeter left the game in the ninth inning after fouling a ball off the top of his left foot in the very first inning. He played through it for the next eight innings, but he was clearly hobbled and having a hard time running. For the Cap’n to leave a playoff game, it had to be pretty bad. Jeter was diagnosed with a bone bruise and is day-to-day. I’m sure he’ll be in the lineup in Game Four, even if he’s just the DH. Jayson Nix replaced him at short and made a nice grab on an inning-ending line drive double play in the tenth.

Two very weird random moments in the game worth mentioning. First Nate McLouth got caught stealing second in the first inning, but he made it to the base safely only to over-slide and get tagged out on the shortstop side of the bag. Robertson and Mark Teixeira had a mini-collision in front of the mound on a pop-up in the 12th, which allowed Mark Reynolds to reach base. Baseball, I guess.

Box Score & WPA Graph

The WPA graph doesn’t do this game justice. Nope, not at all. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, and you should totally watch the highlights even if you saw the entire game.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’ll be Game Four on Thursday night, as the Yankees will have a chance to eliminate the Orioles and advance to the ALCS for the third time in four years. Phil Hughes will get the ball for New York while the left-hander Joe Saunders will start for Baltimore. That game will start at 7:37pm ET because the Athletics pulled an Ibanez and walked off against the Tigers, forcing a Game Five.

Kuroda & Ichiro lead Yanks to win over BoSox


Source: FanGraphs

We’re starting to reach the point where we have to discuss Hiroki Kuroda‘s Cy Young Award candidacy, no? I don’t think he should win at the moment, but he probably deserves some top-five consideration. His win over the Red Sox on Sunday was his latest gem in a season full of them, giving the Bombers just their second Yankee Stadium series win over Boston since the start of the 2010 season. Let’s recap…

  • 2.96 ERA: The most impressive part of Kuroda’s outing wasn’t the eight innings of one-run ball, it was that he retired Pedro Ciriaco all three times he faced him. I may or may not be serious. Either way, Kuroda was brilliant yet again, with the only blemish on his line being a late-inning solo homer from Adrian Gonzalez. He struck out four, walked zero, and got a dozen ground ball outs compared to just six in the air. Outside of the dinger, the Red Sox didn’t hit much if anything with authority. Hiroki Kuroda, 37-year-old hurler transitioning to the AL East, is the proud owner of a 2.96 ERA with a little more than a month left in the season. Amazing.
  • The Derek & Ichiro Variety Hour: The two most veteran of veterans carried the offensive torch on Sunday. Derek Jeter doubled twice — including to leadoff the very first inning — and came around to score both times, then Ichiro Suzuki did him one better by hitting a pair of solo homers off Josh Beckett. Two homers! From Ichiro! File that under “you can’t predict baseball.” That’s it, those two accounted for pretty much all the scoring. Great job, fellas.
  • Leftovers: Curtis Granderson doubled in Jeter in the first to continue his resurgence, and it took a wild pitch to get the Cap’n in the second time … Robinson Cano broke an ugly 0-for-16 skid with a single, his first hit since facing J.A. Happ last Sunday … the offense didn’t do much else, a combined 0-for-19 with a walk (Nick Swisher). Casey McGehee managed to go 0-for-4 with a strikeout on just eight pitches. That’s why he doesn’t play much against righties … Rafael Soriano made things ever so slightly interested in the ninth by allowing a leadoff single to Carl Crawford, but a Dustin Pedroia double play ended the threat in short order. Gonzalez struck out to end the game.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. Both the Rays and Orioles won on Sunday, so they remain five and six games back in the loss column, respectively. Boston is 14 games back and the magic number to clinch the AL East crown is down to 37. The Yankees are off to Chicago for three games against the White Sox, starting with Freddy Garcia and Gavin Floyd on Monday.

Tex & Chavez carry Yanks to split in Detroit

After losing eight straight agonizing one-run games, it was nice to be on the other side of the ledger for once. The Yankees took the finale of the four-game series with the Tigers on Thursday afternoon, using a late rally and some seriously clutch relief pitching to earn the split. It was their first one-run win since the big comeback off Scott Downs, the very first game after the All-Star break.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Back-to-Back

They say the Yankees can’t hit homers in big ballparks or off good pitchers or in late-inning clutch situations, but they did all of that to win this game. Down 3-2 heading into the eighth against uber-setup man Joaquin Benoit, the Bombers stayed true to their moniker and used a pair of one-out solo homers from Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez to tie the game and then take the lead. The back-to-back dingers came on consecutive pitches, and Tex’s shot was yanked down the line to right field while Chavez went the other way to left. That was really impressive.

Believe it or not, the homer was Teixeira’s fourth game-tying blast in the seventh inning or later this season. The rest of the Yankees have three. Chavez now has a dozen homers on the year and is on a 33-homer pace across 600 plate appearances, all while hitting a cool .289/.347/.526 on the season. That is in-his-prime type of stuff from the former Athletic. You just can’t say enough about how amazing he’s been this year, stepping up to produce in a big way while helping cover for various injuries. This game had all the look of another disappointing one-run loss, but Teixeira and Chavez came up with some enormous hits.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

MFIKY

I’ve never been much of a Rafael Soriano defender, but that was without a doubt his biggest performance of the season and maybe of his Yankees career. Not only did he get a four-out save in a one-run game while pitching for the second straight day, he also pitched around a first-and-third, no outs jam in the ninth by inducing three weak pop-ups. Other than a strikeout, that’s the best possible outcome of an at-bat in that situation. Furthermore, Miguel Cabrera was waiting on deck when the last out was recorded, so the margin of error was as small as it gets. That was a big boy save if I’ve ever seen one, Soriano came up huge.

While we’re at it, we also have to give Clay Rapada and David Phelps some props for their work in the seventh and eighth. Rapada retired the two lefties he faced with a man on second to end the seventh, then Phelps came in to navigate around Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Austin Jackson in the eighth. David Robertson was unavailable after throwing 35 pitches on Wednesday, and Joba Chamberlain was unavailable after throwing 20+ pitches on both Monday and Tuesday. Phelps fell behind Miggy 3-0 but battled back to get him to fly out, and while Fielder singled, he was able to retire A-Jax on a little fly ball to right. That was some serious work by the rookie, bravo.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Ump Show

The umpiring crew was legit bad in this one. Third base ump Tim Welke initially called a ball that landed directly on the line foul before changing his mind and signaling fair, though it’s unclear if that actually impacted Raul Ibanez‘s pursuit of the ball. Either way, Welke jumped the gun on the call and made a mess of things. Joe Girardi came out to argue, got tossed, and apparently tried to protest the game. First base ump Tony Randazzo also blew a call on an Omar Infante infield single — replays showed he was out by half-a-step if not more. That didn’t lead to any scoring, however. And, of course, home plate ump Todd Tichenor had a goofy strike zone. Unfortunately this is just par for the course these days.

#HIROK

The final pitching line isn’t anything special — 6.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 7/5 GB/FB — but Hiroki Kuroda made basically one bad pitch all afternoon, and that was the pitch Alex Avila hit for the game-tying two-run homer in the fifth. Other than that, he got infield singled and blooped and dunked to death. It was ugly as all hell, but Kuroda still managed to turn in a quality start, his 11th in his last 14 starts. The dinger by Avila was the first Hiroki has surrendered in four starts.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Leftovers

The Yankees scored their first two runs with two outs in the second inning, when Ibanez tripled (!) in Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki singled in Ibanez. The old guys were getting it done early. Ichiro also drew his first walk as a Yankee in this game, his 16th since the trade.

The bottom five hitters in the order went a combined 7-for-18 (.389) with two doubles, a triple, and a homer. The top four hitters didn’t do much of anything — 3-for-18 (.167) — outside of Teixeira’s homer, but sometimes the guys on the bottom have to pick the big bats up.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Now that is a fun graph, as long as you’re pulling for the team is on the bottom. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Rays won and the Orioles lost, so both clubs are now six games back of the Yankees in the loss column in the AL East race.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees are taking a short trip up to Toronto and will open a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays on Friday night. Freddy Garcia will be opposed by southpaw Ricky Romero.

Domination: Felix blanks Yanks in 1-0 loss


Source: FanGraphs

There really isn’t much you can say about Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Mariners. Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher and sometimes he’s going to be so good that you’re only going to get two hits in nine innings. I was at the game and the only thing that bothered me was his strikeout total: six. If I’m going to watch the Yanks get manhandled like that in person, at least rack up 15, 16, 17 strikeouts or something like that. Rude of him to only whiff six.

Hiroki Kuroda was pretty awesome on the other side and was saddled with the tough luck loss. The bullpen was great, Ichiro Suzuki extended his exactly-one-hit streak to eleven games, and that’s that. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles beat the Rays, so the lead in the division remains seven in the loss column. Also, this happened. Every day that ticks off the calendar without anyone gaining ground is almost as good as a win. Freddy Garcia and Hisashi Iwakuma will meet in the rubber game on Sunday afternoon.

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Sorry folks, no minor league update tonight. I will, however, link you to the box scores: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, Short Season, Rookie GCL.

Yanks come back against Red Sox (again), lose anyway (again)


Source: FanGraphs

Same story, different day. The Yankees are playing a pretty crummy brand of baseball these days, winning just three of their last ten games against three teams that are a combined one game under-.500. To make matters worse, five of those seven losses have come by one run. That’s brutal. Let’s recap…

  • My Hiro: Man, Hiroki Kuroda is just awesome. Eight innings of two-run ball, a career-best four ground ball double plays … and a no decision. Life isn’t fair. He came into the game with the eighth worst run support (5.44 runs per game) in the AL and it managed to go down.
  • One Man Army: All of the offense came from Russell Martin, at leave the driving in runs part. He hit a solo homer off Felix Doubront — a below-average pitcher (97 ERA+) who the Yankees have made look like Cy Young three times this year — in the seventh then singled in Andruw Jones to tie the game in the eighth. The eighth inning rally started with two outs, so hooray for that.
  • Bleeder & Blooper: David Robertson created his own mess in the tenth by walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia and his .285 OBP to lead off the inning, but the Red Sox scored the go-ahead run on a little ground ball single that scooted through the infield and a bloop that dunked into shallow right. The walk’s clearly on Robertson, the other stuff just kinda happens. Sucks.
  • Leftovers: Robinson Cano went 0-for-5 and saw 16 total pitches on the day his agent said he wants a ten-year deal #timingfail … Ichiro Suzuki had an infield single and still has exactly one hit in every game with the Yankees, but he also made the final out of an inning with a man in scoring position three times (!) … the top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-19 with a walk and six strikeouts, the bottom five hitters went 7-for-21 with four walks and five strikeouts … Rafael Soriano only threw eight pitches in a scoreless ninth, and he probably would have gone back out for a second inning had he not pitched on Saturday … absolutely weak effort by the fans on Mark Teixeira‘s foul ball in the tenth, they let Ryan Sweeney lean right in to catch it for the out.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles won, so the lead in the division is down to eight games. They’re coming to town for a three-game set starting Monday, when Freddy Garcia gives it a go against rookie Miguel Gonzalez. Check out RAB Tickets for the latest deals.