Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Postgame notes: Why won't Gardner run?
By Wallace Matthews
DENVER -- The New York Yankees came to Coors Field and managed the least likely result, losing a pitcher's duel in a hitter's ballpark. Worse than that, they managed to get shut out in a park that normally sees 10 runs scored between two teams on a nightly basis. It was the first time the Colorado Rockies had ever shut out the Yankees, who had just four singles all night, three off starter Jorge De La Rosa and one, an infield hit, off closer Rafael Betancourt.
To all those mysterious events, add one more: On Tuesday, the Yankees had four stolen bases, two by Ichiro Suzuki, one by Jayson Nix and one by, believe it or not, by Chris Stewart.
And none by Brett Gardner, whose seeming reluctance to run this season is becoming more puzzling by the day. Gardner, who stole 96 bases over his past two full seasons, has four in six attempts so far this season. Tuesday night seemed like the perfect opportunity to get No. 5 when, batting for Ben Francisco, he led off the seventh with a walk in front of Lyle Overbay.
And yet, it was not until the eighth pitch of Overbay's 11-pitch at-bat that Gardner finally took off, on hit-and-run plays. Three times Overbay fouled pitches off; the fourth time he flied out to center. Gardner never threatened to steal during the at-bat of the next Yankees hitter, Chris Nelson, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Asked if he would like to see Gardner take more chances on the base paths, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "No comment. He said the footing was tough over there. I think it got kind of sloppy."
Pressed further on the issue, Girardi said, "He hasn’t stolen as many bases. I think people are paying closer attention to him, obviously. He’s no surprise for anyone. He’s stolen a few more the last couple weeks, and we need that to continue."
Gardner, of course, has the green light but sometimes it seems as if he needs someone behind him honking the horn to remind him to go.
“He understands," Girardi said. "We’re not going to get mad at him if he gets thrown out. Good base stealers are going to get thrown out. If you’re getting thrown out all the time, then you change it. I think he’s a good base stealer and he’s going to get thrown out at times.”
Gardner left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters after the game, but this is a subject that bears watching as the season progresses.
• This was by far the best start by Hiroki Kuroda at Coors Field. Kuroda came in with a 1-2 record and 6.85 ERA at Coors; Tuesday's seven-inning, two-run effort dropped his record here to 1-3 and his ERA by more than a full run, to 5.83.
• Nix's two-hit game came at the expense of the team that drafted him in 2001, and for whom he played 22 games in 2008. This was the first time Nix had ever played against the Rockies.