If the Yankees were offered a re-do of the first inning of tonight's game, they should take it in a heartbeat. With runners on third and second and no outs, they managed to only push one run across before Curtis Granderson popped up with the bases loaded to end the inning. The golden opportunity was wasted, and it was a struggle from there.
Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs in 6.1 innings while striking out six and allowing eight hits. The offense got the lead for him in the sixth inning after a walk to Granderson and an Andruw Jones single came around to score on a ground rule double by Derek Jeter. Kuroda didn't feel like pitching with a lead, though, and served up a solo homer to Dustin Pedroia approximately four pitches later. The shutdown innings have been a real problem for this team lately. They just can't hold a lead.
Two runners reached before Kuroda was pulled in the seventh on a bunt and an error by Russell Martin. Boone Logan came on to finish loading the bases without a ball ever leaving the infield. Luckily, the improved Joba Chamberlain was around to induce a ground out at home plate and a Pedroia popup to avoid further damage at that point. The final two innings were handed to David Robertson, but they couldn't have gone differently. James Loney, Cody Ross, and Ryan Lavarnway were all sat down in order on strikeouts by D-Rob in the 8th, but Pedro Ciriaco singled in the 9th to improve his mark against the Yankees to 17 for 35. A single in the hole to Jeter got Ciriaco into scoring position, and a single to right field by Jacoby Ellsbury drove him home narrowly ahead of Ichiro Suzuki's throw to the plate.
If anything good can be drawn from this, it's that the struggling Nick Swisher snapped his 0-28 streak with a 2-2 night, including a double in the first inning. Even the helpless Andruw Jones managed to get on base three times, partially thanks to Jon Lester's career-high seven walks. That wasn't enough for the Yankees to pull this one out, though; and with the Baltimore Orioles beating the Rays earlier tonight, everything is once again tied at the top of the division. To make the playoffs, the Yankees have to start beating these teams and they let the opportunity slip away tonight, especially with arguably their best pitcher on the mound. The way they are playing just isn't good enough.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be a slugfest with David Phelps squaring off against Aaron Cook. Knowing how things have gone lately, it may end up a pitcher's duel. That would be fitting. To ensure they don't fall into second place, the Yankees will have to find a way to make up for tonight's failures.