New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda

Kuroda remains last starter standing

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get the win for the New York Yankees on Sunday. But he walked off of the mound with his health in tact. And that alone is considered a big victory for the Yankees these days.

The 39-year-old Kuroda gave up three hits and no earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in his 200th major league appearance on Sunday, a no-decision in the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

“He was outstanding,” manager Joe Girardi said of Kuroda.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda didn't walk away with a win but made it out of Sunday's outing in good health.
Sure, the manager made a great point. Kuroda struck out six and walked two in a masterful performance against Cincinnati. From a macro perspective, the biggest victory for the Yankees and Kuroda on Sunday was that he walked off the mound healthy.

Injuries have hit the Yankees’ starting rotation hard this seasons.

CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are already out for the year. Masahiro Tanaka may be as well. Michael Pineda is trying to battle back from a shoulder injury.

Kuroda is the last starter standing in the Bronx.

“It just tells you about how well he prepares himself,” Girardi said before the game.

Kuroda’s preparation was on display throughout the afternoon on Sunday. He struck out the side in the first inning and spread out three hits over the final 5 2/3 innings to outduel Reds ace Johnny Cueto.

“He pitched deep in the ballgame and kept them off balance,” catcher Brian McCann said.

The Yankees’ fill-in staff has pitched well of late. Bombers starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of their past eight games (since July 9). They’ve gone 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA over that span.

Kuroda said after the game that he wasn’t feeling any added pressure to perform in light of the Yankees’ banged up starting staff.

“You can’t replace my teammates, but when I’m on the mound I want to make sure I give my team a chance,” Kuroda said.

Rare mistake from Betances: Dellin Betances allowed a game-tying solo homer to New Jersey product Todd Frazier in the eighth. Before Frazier’s blast, righties had been 0-for-24 off of Betances. The All-Star has allowed two homers in 58 1/3 innings this season.

Girardi called the sight of Betances allowing a homer “shocking.”

Consistency: The Yankees have used the same starting lineup in each of their past three games since the All-Star break, marking the first time they’ve used the same lineup in at least three consecutive games since three straight from July 20-22 last season. ... The Yanks finished their interleague schedule with a 13-7 record, including a 6-1 mark in their last seven.

Pineda progressing toward return

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
NEW YORK -- Injured Yankees starter Michael Pineda is getting closer to starting his rehab assignment, manager Joe Girardi said.

Pineda, one of four Yankees’ starters penciled into the rotation at the beginning of the season who are injured, is expected to throw two sessions of live batting practice in the coming days. If all goes well, he will progress to throwing either simulated innings or innings against live hitters in rehab starts.

Pineda hasn’t pitched since April 23 due to a troublesome shoulder injury. The righty threw a bullpen session over the All Star break and didn’t have an issue.

Pineda is in the midst of an approximately six-week process to get back on the mound.

Beltran to throw soon: Carlos Beltran has been limited to DH duty for the Yankees because of a bone spur in his right elbow that causes soreness when he tries to throw. But Girardi said on Sunday that Beltran is expected to try to throw “soon.” So the veteran may be available for outfield duty in the near future, provided he doesn’t have any setbacks.

Joe marvels at Kuroda: That Hiroki Kuroda is the lone Yankees starter who was penciled into the rotation at the beginning of the season hasn’t been lost on Girardi.

“The last guy standing in a sense is the oldest guy,” Girardi said of the 39-year-old Kuroda. “It just tells you about how he prepares himself.”

Girardi was asked if he could see himself asking Kuroda to pitch more in the second half of the season due to the various injuries to the Yankees’ pitching staff.

“You can maybe push him a little bit more but I think you have to be cautious,” he said.

Rapid Reaction: Royals 2, Yankees 1

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Here's something the New York Yankees should have to write on the blackboard 500 times, or go to bed without supper: I must get better at situational hitting.

In a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals that puts them in danger of losing the four-game series, the struggling Yanks were an appalling 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

Until Ichiro Suzuki's RBI groundout scored Yangervis Solarte from third base in the sixth, the Yankees had flailed away at a 1-for-11 clip with runners in scoring position.

Laboring from first pitch, James Shields was ripe for the picking on this sticky, cloudy afternoon. But the Yanks squandered opportunity after opportunity before tumbling back to .500 at 31-31.

What a waste: Futility came early and often. The Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out in the second on two singles and a walk and Shields, to that point, had allowed five baserunners. But he struck out Kelly Johnson, retired Solarte on a nifty 3-1 force at home and then fanned Derek Jeter after starting him 0-2. So the Yanks got nothing but mounting frustration.

Jacoby Ellsbury doubled leading off the next inning but, continuing the theme, Carlos Beltran grounded out and Brian McCann and Solarte struck out, giving the Yanks six stranded runners in only three beat-your-head-against-the-wall innings.

Brian Roberts doubled with one out in the fourth but died at second. Brett Gardner tripled with one out in the seventh, then watched Jeter ground meekly to short and Ellsbury strike out.

Suzuki, carrying the tying run, remained at third base as closer Greg Holland struck out Gardner to end what has to be one of the most frustrating Yankee losses in a very long time.

Also wasted: A second straight fine outing by Hiroki Kuroda. The righthander allowed only two runs on five hits. The start before, he allowed only one run on two hits in 6 2-3 innings in a 5-2 loss to Oakland.

Coming up short: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar robbed Jeter with a standout play in the first, diving to his right to stop a hot smash and, from his knees, throwing out his Yankee counterpart by half a step.

DJ-$10K: The Royals will honor the retiring Jeter prior to Monday's game and present him with a $10,000 check for Turn 2, his charity organization which promotes healthy lifestyles among youth. In his last appearance in Kauffman Stadium, Jeter has drawn appreciative applause from KC fans every time he's come to bat.

Heating up: Solarte is swinging the Yanks' only hot bat. After going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored on Saturday night, the rookie infielder went 2-for-4 with a double and another run scored.

Extremely red-faced: Next to the Yankees' hitters with runners in scoring position, the most embarrassed person in the stadium had to be the poor right field ball boy. Brian Roberts rifled a shot down the line in the fourth inning which the umpire signaled fair. But as right fielder Nori Aoki ran to the ball, the youngster calmly picked it up and handed it to someone in the stands. It went for a ground-rule double as the youngster sheepishly sat down on his folding chair. But between innings, kindly first base coach Rusty Kuntz went over to talk to the lad and give him a reassuring pat on the back. A couple of innings later when somebody lashed a ball down the line that was clearly foul, the kid never budged.

Monday: In the finale of the four-game set, the Yanks will send rookie lefthander Vidal Nuno (1-2) to the mound to face Jason Vargas (5-2).

First Pitch: Can Kuroda keep pace?

May, 18, 2014
May 18
NEW YORK -- Sunday would be a good day for Hiroki Kuroda to flash the form that he showed in the first half of 2013.

Kuroda has been one of many inconsistent performers on the Yankees’ pitching staff this season.

In his last outing, Kuroda left the Yanks with a 7-4 lead but earned a no-decision as the Mets rallied for a 9-7 win. Still, Kuroda’s numbers left something to be desired.

He gave up four runs on seven hits (two homers) in six innings.

He’s lost four of his last five starts and hasn’t won in his last three starts at home.

That’s Kuroda’s longest home winless streak since he joined the Yankees. He last lost four-or-more straight home starts in 2011. That was in the midst of eight straight winless starts for the Dodgers.

Kuroda's struggles are amplified due to various injuries to the Yankees pitching staff, which have been well documented. They are without CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. So that’s one reason why they could use a dominant turn from Kuroda (2-3, 4.62) on Sunday afternoon.

Here's another: Kuroda is starting Game 1 of a double-header, so it’s almost vital that he eat some innings to provide rest for a bullpen that had to toss four innings on Saturday.

One thing Hiroki has going for him on Sunday? A history of success against Pittsburgh.

In his career against the Pirates, the hurler is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA. He's given up just 37 hits in 44 innings pitched.

Those numbers read a lot like the Yankees' staff as a whole of late.
Bombers pitchers have thrown 23 straight scoreless innings before Starling Marte ended the streak on Saturday with a homer in the sixth. Still, Yankee arms have limited opponents to just one run over the last 27 innings.

Surely, Joe Girardi hopes that Kuroda can keep pace on Sunday.

More tough luck for Kuroda

August, 7, 2013
CHICAGO -- There is a good chance Hiroki Kuroda quit drinking coffee about two months ago.

The New York Yankees right-hander was once again in a nail-biter Tuesday, ending up on the wrong end of a 3-2 final against the Chicago White Sox.

Tight games are becoming Kuroda’s signature as Tuesday’s outing was his 14th consecutive start decided by three runs or less. Nine of those 14 starts were decided by two runs or less.

Call Kuroda a man on a deserted island because not only was he abandoned by his own offense, his opponents weren’t about to send him a search party. White Sox starter Chris Sale entered with a major league low 2.47 runs of support per game and a 1-9 record over his last 11 starts (eight quality), despite a 3.23 ERA in that stretch.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda took his first loss since June 30.
“I don’t feel sorry for him, nor does Sale,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You know he’s going to be tough. He’s just one of those guys, he doesn’t make it easy. He just moves the ball in and out.”

It’s not that it was Kuroda’s best outing, but he did manage to work his way out of trouble. He gave up season-highs in hits (nine) and pitches (116).

It ended up being his first loss since June 30, when he gave up three home runs to the Baltimore Orioles.

“All I can think about is to make sure when I take the mound, I contribute to a win and today I couldn't do that,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “In that sense I feel really bad.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows that Kuroda has nothing to apologize for, acknowledging that he is impressed with the way his pitcher keeps getting after it in each start.

“He has not shown any frustration,” Girardi said. “He’s pitched extremely well and he should have a lot more than 10 wins. He just goes up there and throws up zeroes for us and that’s what he’s been doing all year.”

Sale was just better on this night, pitching with an added fire that nearly proved to be costly. He gave up a first inning run when Alfonso Soriano scored from second base on a wild pitch and appeared to be getting flustered. But he settled in, with the White Sox finally scoring single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

After helping the Yankees past Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Clayton Kershaw in his last start, Kuroda couldn’t get past the All-Star Sale in this one.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he threw the ball pretty good. They had some hits with runners in scoring position. That was probably the difference in the game. You give up three runs in seven innings, usually you’ll sign up for that.”

First Pitch: Kuroda All-Star-worthy?

July, 8, 2013
NEW YORK -- After shutting down Baltimore over seven innings Saturday, Hiroki Kuroda lowered his ERA to 2.77. He's been the Yankees' best pitcher through the first half, although his wins and losses don't reflect how well he's pitched.

Despite his strong work, Kuroda was not named to the AL All-Star team, although he possibly could be added later as a replacement. His current omission, however, begs the question: Does Kuroda deserve to be on the squad?

The AL currently has nine starters on its roster. Here's a look at how Kuroda stacks up against the selections.

• Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 2.77 ERA, 79 K, 1.029 WHIP)

Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA, 81 K, 1.02 WHIP)

Bartolo Colon (11-3, 2.78 ERA, 61 K, 1.103 WHIP)

Yu Darvish (8-4, 3.02 ERA, 157 K, 1.047 WHIP)

Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 130 K, 1.108 WHIP)

Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.60 ERA, 103 K, 0.882 WHIP)

Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.78 ERA, 131 K, 1.220 WHIP)

Chris Sale (5-8, 2.78 ERA, 123 K, 0.962 WHIP)

Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA, 139 K, 0.917 WHIP)

Justin Verlander (9-5, 3.54 ERA, 119 K, 1.357 WHIP)

Kuroda is tied eighth in wins, has the fourth-best ERA, is ninth in strikeouts and fifth in WHIP.

Overall, it would make a good argument that Kuroda deserved a spot over Verlander and Masterson.

AL manager Jim Leyland said Saturday that he factored in Verlander's history, as he's won the MVP and Cy Young Award. It's hard to argue with that.

Masterson, though, doesn't have those same credentials. He does, however, lead the league innings pitched in games started.

Whether he deserved to be elected or not, Kuroda still has a chance to be named an All-Star due to pitchers potentially backing out because of injuries, or starting the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Kuroda has never been named an All-Star.

Up now: Wallace Matthews writes about Mariano Rivera's second blown save. I touched on Kuroda's gem. Michael Pineda is staying in Triple-A.

On deck: The Yankees begin a four-game set against the Royals. Wally will have you covered from Yankee Stadium.

Question: Should Kuroda have been selected to the All-Star team?

Kuroda's gem wasted in 2-1 loss

July, 7, 2013
NEW YORK -- Sunday's blown save had a little more sting to it for Mariano Rivera after watching Hiroki Kuroda dissect the Orioles all afternoon.

"It's difficult. It's a loss. But the way [Hiroki] Kuroda was pitching, he was doing outstanding. He did great," Rivera said. "It would have been a good game to save. I don't say the other ones aren't good, but this one should have been great, but I didn't [get it done]."

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda scorched the Birds over seven scoreless innings.
Kuroda pitched a brilliant game on Sunday as he held the Orioles scoreless over seven innings in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to Baltimore. Kuroda yielded three hits and cruised through 88 pitches.

"It was good to see him get out there and throw extremely well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his sinker was good and I thought his splitter was extremely good today."

Kuroda had been scheduled to start Friday, but was pushed back due to a hip issue. An MRI came back clean and Kuroda's bullpen session Friday went well, allowing the team to slot him into the rotation on Sunday. The Yankees had to rearrange their rotation due to starter David Phelps going on the DL.

Facing an Orioles team that tagged him for three homers and four runs a week ago, Kuroda pitched his best game in more than a month. Armed with a devastating splitter, Kuroda held the the Orioles to just four baserunners, and he allowed just one walk over his final 13 batters. The Orioles went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position against Kuroda, who lowered his ERA to 2.77.

"I was trying to keep us in the ball game," Kuroda said. "With a one-run lead, I think I was able to do that."

Saddled with a no-decision on Sunday, Kuroda has now won just one game in his past nine starts. Sunday seemed like it would be the second one, but a rare blown save kept him from win No. 8.

"It was a good situation to have [David] Robertson in the eighth and Mariano in the ninth," Kuroda said. "With that, if we don't get the win, nothing you can do about it."

David Robertson hopes to take part in the festivities at Citi Field on July 16.

"I would love to go the All-Star game, especially with Mo [Rivera] in his last year, it would be a lot fun, and it being in New York too," Robertson said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully I can win in the votes."

Robertson is part of the Final Vote, where fans will select the final member of the AL All-Star team in balloting that runs through Thursday. Robertson is alongside four other relievers in Detroit's Joaquin Benoit, Toronto's Steve Delabar, Boston's Koji Uehara and Texas' Tanner Scheppers.

In 2010, former Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher won the Final Vote and went all out in his campaign to get in, even posing with a surfboard. Robertson isn't quite sure which direction his campaign is going to go at the minute, but it won't be emulating Swisher's.

"I'm sure we'll try to do everything we can to win," Robertson said. "I don't know if you'll see me in a surfboard and a Tommy Bahama."

Rapid Reaction: Orioles 4, Yankees 2

June, 30, 2013

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles completed the sweep of the New York Yankees by hitting three solo homers off Hiroki Kuroda. The real story once again for the Yankees is that they can barely score. Baltimore, meanwhile, is an exciting, well-built team that is no longer intimidated by the Yankees.

WHAT IT MEANS: After 81 games, the Yankees are 42-39. They have lost five in a row. They trail the Red Sox by 6½ games in the AL East and have moved into fourth place, just two games in front of last-place Toronto. The second-place Orioles (47-36) are 2½ games behind Boston.

DYNAMIC DUO: What makes the Orioles suddenly such an intriguing and exciting team to watch begins with two players: Manny Machado and Chris Davis. Machado, a doubles machine, creamed a solo shot off Kuroda in the first.

In the second, Davis mauled Kuroda, smashing a shot the other way for his 31st homer of the year.

THREE IN A ROW: In the third, Nate McLouth joined the party, hitting the Orioles third solo shot in as many innings.

Machado added his major league-leading 38th double. Machado ended up not scoring because of a nice play by third baseman David Adams to end the third.

YANKEES SCORE EARLY: Between the Machado and Davis long balls, the Yankees actually tied the game. In the second, Zoilo Almonte and Chris Stewart knocked singles and Orioles starter Chris Tillman got wild. With two outs he would walk the No. 9 hitter, Adams, to load the bases and Brett Gardner to gift the Yankees a run.

They could have had more, but Ichiro Suzuki meekly popped out on the infield to end the inning.

CANO, DON'T YA KNOW: In the sixth, Robinson Cano got the Yankees on the board again, nailing his 17th homer of the year. It was his first since June 13th, spanning 51 at-bats.

SEVENTH-INNING THREAT: In the seventh against side-winder Darren O'Day, the Yankees put the tying run on second with one out via walks to Jayson Nix and Adams. Gardner flew out to short center and Ichiro popped out even more meekly than the first time.

NINTH TRY: Lyle Overbay led off the ninth with a double off Jim Johnson, so the the tying run came to the plate with no outs. Nix struck out swinging. Next, Stewart took first after being hit with a pitch, placing the tying run there. Adams would strike out on three pitches. Gardner would ground into a fielder's choice at second to end the game.

HIROKI: Kuroda was a pro's pro once again. Yes, he gave up the three home runs and a seventh-inning tack-on run went on his ledger, but he kept his team in the game. It is not his fault the Yankees can't hit. He dropped to 7-6 with a 2.95 ERA.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Yankees go to Minnesota for four games. Here are your pitching matchups:

• Monday, Andy Pettitte (5-6, 4.22) vs. Scott Diamond (5-7, 5.40).
• Tuesday, Phil Hughes (3-7, 4.82) vs. Samuel Deduno (4-2, 3.32).
• Wednesday, CC Sabathia (8-6, 4.15) vs. P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.03).
• Thursday, David Phelps (5-5, 4.95) vs. Kyle Gibson (3.00).

QUESTION: What did you think of the first 81 games?

Kuroda bests former team

June, 19, 2013
NEW YORK -- Before he took the mound Wednesday, Hiroki Kuroda let himself reminisce about his time with the Dodgers, the team he spent his first four major league seasons with.

"There were a lot [of] former teammates on that team," Kuroda said. "But once the game started, I didn't really think about it. I was just concentrated on getting outs."

Facing his former team for the first time, Kuroda picked up the win as he tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball in the Yankees 6-4 win. Kuroda snapped a three-game losing streak as he improved to 7-5. Kuroda pitched to three former teammates in Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis.

"I thought he threw the ball really well today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "As much as it's not a lot of his teammates [on the Dodgers], I'm sure with the matchup today he felt a little bit of something. He pitched extremely well."

After a stellar career in Japan, Kuroda pitched for the Dodgers from 2008-11, going 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA. Since joining the Yankees in 2012, Kuroda has actually fared better as Wednesday's win now has him at 23-16 with a 3.16 ERA during his two seasons in the Bronx.

The veteran held the Dodgers scoreless through six on Wednesday but ran into trouble in the seventh as he allowed a pair of runs. A run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. knocked him out of the game with the Yankees ahead 3-2, but the Yankees bullpen held on. Kuroda gave up eight hits and struck out two.

"Today my split and slider weren't really good," Kuroda said. "I would call it a tough outing."

IMPRESSED BY PUIG: The Yankees were impressed by Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig, who went 2-for-5 in the opener. Puig had great at-bats all afternoon and showcased his speed.

"Hits the ball hard, I can tell you that," Girardi said. "Got a very good arm and is aggressive. He's a good looking young player."

In the first and eighth innings, Puig hit balls to shallow center and tried to turn both into doubles. In the first, Brett Gardner was able to throw him out at second, but Puig beat Gardner's throw in the eighth and was rewarded with a hard-earned double. He struck out to end the game against Mariano Rivera.

In the field, Puig nearly had the play of the day as he nearly threw out Yankees designated hitter Thomas Neal at first on a liner to right field.

"Very interesting player. I think he has a lot of impact," Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki said. "You saw him trying to throw a guy out at first and running to second on the single up the middle. Definitely somebody that has impact."

STATUS OF THE PEN: Mariano Rivera and David Robertson both said they are available for the second game after throwing in the day game. Robertson threw 2/3 innings on 14 pitches, while Rivera tossed a perfect ninth to pick up his 25th save on just 10 pitches.
It may have been a short series, but a sweep is a sweep. With their dramatic 2-1 ninth-inning victory Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Mets pulled off their third sweep of the Yankees in the 17-year history of the Subway Series, dropping the Yankees into their first three-game losing streak of the season. They were the last team in baseball to have yet to lose three in a row this season.

The Yankees and Mets will now head to the Bronx for two games.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda threw seven shutout innings on Tuesday night.
• There weren't many Yankees highlights in Queens, but Hiroki Kuroda was certainly one of them. The hard-luck right-hander, in his first outing since having to leave his last start after taking a one-hopper off his calf, threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out seven. Still, he and Matt Harvey, who pitched him virtually to a standstill, had to settle for no-decisions. The win went to reliever Scott Rice, the loss to Mariano Rivera.

Brett Gardner was another highlight. Although Gardner was charged with the throwing error that set up the game-winning run in the ninth, Joe Girardi seemed to feel catcher Chris Stewart should have stopped the ball from going through, and Mo admitted he should have been backing up the play. But before that, not only had Gardner had four excellent at-bats against Harvey -- two hits, a run scored and two line outs -- he also made his second spectacular catch in as many nights to rob Daniel Murphy, this time of a possible double as he ran into the center field wall to snag his sixth-inning drive with a runner on second.

"I don't think he's too happy with me right now," Gardner said of Murphy. "But that's all right."

Lyle Overbay struck out in his first two at-bats against Harvey, once on a 97 mph fastball and once on a changeup, but hung in against the change in his third at-bat and lined it into right-center to drive in the Yankees' only run of the night, in the sixth inning.

David Robertson bounced back from his nightmarish outing in taking the loss Monday night to pitch a spotless eighth tonight. "I wouldn't rather have another eighth- or ninth-inning guy in the game," Gardner said of Robertson and Rivera. "But they're not perfect."

• The loss dropped the Yankees to 30-21, a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and below 10 games over .500 for the first time since May 16.
Hiroki KurodaJustin Edmonds/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda had another solid night despite giving up a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
DENVER -- As difficult as it may be to believe, the New York Yankees lost a game at Coors Field in which their starting pitcher allowed just two runs.

Almost as equally difficult to believe is that in a ballpark that is still conducive to the home run and high-scoring games remain the rule, not the exception, Tuesday's game between the Yankees and the Colorado Rockies was decided by a single pitch, a 3-2 fastball from Hiroki Kuroda in the sixth inning that drifted over the plate to Carlos Gonzalez, who airmailed it into the Rockies' bullpen for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

But the real story of Tuesday's game was not Kuroda, who has been the Yankees' best starting pitcher by far over the first 30 games of the season, or one bad pitch.

It was that the Yankees' lineup could not manage to score one run, let alone the three needed for victory, in a park known as a launching pad and against a pitcher (Jorge De La Rosa) making just his fourth start since returning from Tommy John surgery.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesRobinson Cano was 0-for-4 in the Yankees' 2-0 loss.
Kuroda -- who had not lost since the second game of the season on April 3, and whose ERA (2.30) is a full run lower than the next best Yankees starter (CC Sabathia) -- paid not only for his mistake but for the feebleness of the Yankees' lineup, which resembled something you might see in a split-squad game in spring training.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Brett Gardner the night off, and with Kevin Youkilis having joined Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the DL, and Eduardo Nunez's rib cage still too sore for him to play, the Yankees essentially were starting backups in place of backups: Jayson Nix for Nunez, Chris Nelson for Youkilis, Ben Francisco for Gardner.

And against a lefty with a good changeup like De La Rosa's, that lineup was beaten nearly before the game began. The Yankees managed just four singles all game -- Nix had two of them -- and a total of six baserunners with walks to Francisco and Gardner, who hit for Francisco in the seventh. The Yankees didn't help themselves by going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but to be fair, two of the Yankees' best opportunities of the game -- Nix reached third base in the first inning and Chris Stewart made it that far in the fifth -- came with two outs and no margin for error.

"Some nights you're just not going to hit," Girardi said, and that is certainly true.

"I think people always remember what it used to be like here," Girardi said. "But it seems like you see some closer games now.”

Closer, maybe, but not much lower scoring. Even though they now cook the baseballs in a humidor at Coors Field to try to counteract the effect of the thin mile-high air, a total of 153 runs had been scored in the first 15 games at Coors, or an average of about 10 per game.

So while the Yankees have played remarkably well so far this season despite all their injuries -- the loss dropped them to 18-13 -- and their record against left-handed starters is a surprising 8-4, it is clear that Girardi's right-handed hitting batting order is not exactly Murderer's Row.

Francisco is still mired in a slump, with his .129 batting average. Vernon Wells has cooled somewhat from his excellent start and his average is now down to .270. Even with his two hits Tuesday, Nix is batting .241. And teams have absolutely no incentive to pitch to Robinson Cano, the only consistently dangerous bat in their lineup. Incredibly, Stewart's .261 batting average was the fourth-highest in the Yankees' batting order.

"We wasted whatever opportunities that we had," Wells said. "It’s hard to win games when you get four hits and don’t put any runs up on the board. Kuroda threw well. We just couldn’t do anything to support him."

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 11, Indians 6

April, 8, 2013

CLEVELAND -- Crisis? What crisis?

What it means: That the New York Yankees, who were a disaster on Saturday, are officially a hot club on Monday, riding a two-game winning streak after an 11-6 win that spoiled the Cleveland Indians' home opener and wiping the smile off Nick Swisher's face, for one day at least.

Welcome back, Robby: Robinson Cano finally began his regular season, belting solo homers in the fifth and sixth innings. Cano also had a double, a walk and scored four runs, and raised his average to .231. If the Yankees hope to do anything this season, this better be only the beginning for Cano.

Pronks Cheer: Travis Hafner was cheered upon his return to Cleveland, where he played 10 seasons, but the cheers turned to jeers when Pronk drove one over the center-field fence with two men on, giving the Yankees a 3-0 first-inning lead. It was his 100th career home run at Progressive Field -- but first as a member of the visiting team.

Hafner made more frenemies in the third when he lined a single to center field with Cano (leadoff double) aboard to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. Hafner now leads the team with six RBIs.

Wild Men: Both Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through control problems in the first inning. Each walked two batters, each allowed three first-inning runs, and the two needed a combined 61 pitches to get out of the inning. Manager Joe Girardi had Shawn Kelley warming up in the first inning, but incredibly, Kuroda recovered from that first inning and worked into the sixth without allowing another run.

Swish-Direction: Great play by Swisher in the first inning in which he hesitated in the baseline just long enough to confuse Lyle Overbay and Cano, causing Michael Brantley's bouncer to skip past them for a single that scored Asdrubal Cabrera from second and allowed Swisher to go all the way to third in the Indians' three-run first.

In a Stew: Chris Stewart manufactured the Yankees' fifth run nearly single-handedly, singling with two out in the fourth and stealing second -- the Indians were so surprised, catcher Carlos Santana didn't even bother to throw -- and scoring on Brett Gardner's looper to short center.

Off the rails: The game spun out of control in the seventh inning when the Yankees added three more runs to go up 11-3, with the help of a walk, a throwing error, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.

Kelley Green: Kelley had a horrendous eighth inning, allowing a double, triple, two-run homer and two wild pitches to give the Indians three runs.

JoBBa: Working with a five-run lead, Joba Chamberlain walked two batters and had to face Mark Reynolds with two out in the ninth, causing Girardi to make a visit to the mound and closer Mariano Rivera to get up in the bullpen. Joba wound up striking out Reynolds to end the game after a crisp 3 hours, 50 minutes.

What's coming: A story on Cano's resurgence, a blog on Hafner's happy homecoming, as well as assorted blogs out of the postgame clubhouse.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-0, at The Boss in the first of two split-squad games Saturday. (The second is against the Braves at Disney at 5:05 p.m.)

It was notable for a few reasons: Hiroki Kuroda's longest outing of the spring, Derek Jeter's first time playing shortstop on consecutive days, and a rarity from Mariano Rivera.

[+] EnlargeJorge Posada and Joe Girardi
AP Photo/Kathy WillensJorge Posada and Joe Girardi saw a rare sight Saturday: a Rivera pitch in the dirt.
HIRO SANDWICH: Kuroda worked six full innings and threw 68 pitches, which, with two more starts slated here before the club heads nort,h puts him right on track for the start of the season. That's the good news.

The bad news is that after three strong innings -- he retired the first seven Phillies he faced -- Kuroda got hit hard in the fourth after second baseman Gil Velazquez booted what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball. The next hitter, Domonic Brown, crushed a three-run homer, and a triple by Jermaine Mitchell and a hard RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt gave the Phils a 4-0 lead.

CAPTAIN CAMEO: In his first time playing back-to-back games at shortstop this spring, Jeter lashed a double to right-center to lead off the Yankees' first, fielded one routine grounder in the second, struck out in the third and then departed after the fourth inning.

Joe Girardi said Jeter's early exit was planned beforehand. "Next time I'll try to maybe go six and five, and just keep trying to increase it,"' Girardi said. "We'll see. I've got to see how he's doing. We've got to be somewhat still cautious with him."

WHAT WAS THAT? Rivera needed 17 pitches to get through the seventh inning, uncharacteristically went to full counts on two hitters and even walked one. But what caught Girardi's attention was one pitch Mo threw to Steven Lerud.

"He actually threw a ball in the dirt," Girardi said. "Me and Jorge (Posada) were commenting on it. You never see him throw a ball in the dirt. He was just a little rusty."

Mo laughed it off, saying he was rushing his mechanics a little. "Most of the time it's not gonna be like that," he said.

Mariano will work again in relief of Andy Pettitte in a minor-league game here on Monday.

CUT-DOWN DAY: The Yankees reassigned OFs Zoilo Almonte and Slade Heathcott to the minor-league complex. Heathcott is still troubled by patellar tendinitis in his left knee and would have been shut down for an indefinite period anyway.

Afternoon Notes: Hiro, Youk & Roker

March, 11, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Before the Yankees bring back Scott Brosius, let's get to some afternoon notes:

1.) HIRO PERFORMANCE: Hiroki Kuroda continues to look very good this spring. He pitched four scoreless innings against the Cardinals and allowed just three hits, walking none while striking out six. He already looks ready for the regular season.

"I'm getting there,: Kuroda said.

2.) TRUE YANKEE: In the fourth, Kevin Youkilis hit an absolute bomb of a homer run. As he rounded the bases you could hear a lot of, "Yoooooooooooooooouk," in the crowd.

Youkilis also played first on Monday. Since he won a Gold Glove at the position in 2007, there is no question he can play it; Joe Girardi just wants him to get some reps there.

3.) FRANCISCO TREAT: Girardi said new acquisition Ben Francisco will have a "chance" to make this team because he hits lefties well. In his career, Francisco has a .743 OPS vs. lefties and a .755 OPS against righties.

4.) WHO'S THAT? During warmups, there was a No. 98, who was noticeably behind the rest of the group during running drills.

Who was it? Al Roker, who was filming a segment for his Weather Channel show and "Today."

5.) BROSIUS: Just to make sure there is no Twitter eruption, I was kidding about Brosius.

Morning Notes: Girardi watches Grandy

February, 21, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- No big news this morning, just little things that you had to watch for. For instance:

1. GRANDERSON HITS, GIRARDI WATCHES: Center fielder Curtis Granderson, who struggled through 2012 despite leading the team with 43 home runs, had a session in the indoor batting cage this morning and Joe Girardi, who normally wanders out to the back field to watch the pitchers, came down to keep an eye on Grandy instead. And in between rounds -- he alternated with Dan Johnson -- Granderson and Girardi engaged in what appeared to be pretty serious conversation.

Afterward, Girardi wouldn't give me anything about what went on except to say, "You have a keen eye." Oh, yeah, and to remind me not to post the muscle-up video.

Later, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that Grandy would take fly balls in left field today. So that's what that was all about.

2. KURODA ON THE HILL: Hiroki Kuroda will throw a round of live BP at 12:15 p.m. on the main field at Steinbrenner to a group that includes Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Rivera. None of the other starters or relievers is slated to throw BP today.

3. PHELPS ON TRACK TO START SATURDAY: David Phelps and Adam Warren are throwing side sessions this morning, and assuming both go OK, Phelps will start Saturday's preseason opener against the Braves in Kissimmee and Warren will start Sunday against the Blue Jays at The Boss.

4. NO, TAGUCHI! That was the New York Post headline the morning of Oct. 14, 2006, when So Taguchi, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, belted a ninth-inning home run off Billy Wagner to start the Mets on the road to ruin in the NLCS. Well, Taguchi, now 43 and retired, was in the Yankees' clubhouse this morning, chatting up his Japanese countryman Kuroda. Wonder if Taguchi will stop at St. Lucie while he's in Florida.



Jacoby Ellsbury
.271 16 70 71
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146