After a rough loss last night to Seattle, the Yankees hoped to get off to a good start in what is sure to be a tough series against the Oakland Athletics. The A's are one of the best teams in the American League, but if the Yankees can take two of three from them, it would give them a lot of momentum heading into a weekend series against the woeful Kansas City Royals.
Simply put, Hiroki Kuroda was terrific tonight. He only made one real mistake, and he had a lot of late movement on his pitches, kept everything down in the zone, and produced the type of performance the Yankees got accustomed to during the first half of 2013.
The Yankees got on the board first, scoring in the bottom half of the first inning. Gardner started things off for the Yankees with a single to right. Mark Teixeira then hit a bloop single to right that dropped just inches inside the foul line, scoring Gardner (who made a great read on the play) from first. With runners at first and third and only one out, the Yankees had a chance for a big inning. But Josh Donaldson made a great play on a Yangervis Solarte liner to rob New York of a run and keep it 1–0.
The next few innings breezed by, as Scott Kazmir and Kuroda were both dealing. Kazmir had all of his off-speed weapons working, especially his terrific changeup. With the score still 1-0 in the top of the fifth, Brandon Moss ripped a 3-2 sinker over the center field fence to open the inning, knotting the score at 1–1. No one scored again until the bottom of the sixth, when Teixeira turned on a fastball and pulled it to left, over the head of Yoenis Cespedes and out of the park to make it 2–1 Yankees.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees had a great chance to add to their lead. After a Scott Sizemore single and John Ryan Murphy walk, the Yankees had two on with no one out. But then Brendan Ryan failed to bunt them over, striking out without moving the runners. With two on and one out, Kazmir was replaced with reliever Fernando Abad, who then struck out Brett Gardner and got Derek Jeter to line out to center. The Yankees' inability to score in the seventh would turn out to be costly, as an insurance run or two definitely would've helped in the later stages of the game.
Dellin Betances, who had finished the seventh for Kuroda, started the eighth inning strong, taking care of the first two batters with ease, but then he gave up a walk to first baseman Alberto Callaspo. With Callaspo on first, pinch hitter Stephen Vogt clubbed a 3-2 fastball into the gap in right-center, scoring Callaspo and tying the game. While Betances then escaped without surrendering any more runs, the game was now tied 2–2, and Kuroda would not be rewarded with a win.
The Yankees, despite getting the leadoff man on in the bottom of the eighth, could not get anything going. Both teams went down in order in the ninth as David Robertson rebounded and pitched a scoreless frame. We went to extra innings and that's where everything fell apart. In the top of the tenth, Adam Warren took the mound and did not have anything close to his best stuff. Moss, the first batter he faced, rocketed a line drive into the right field seats to make it 3–2. Warren then walked Cespedes, who scored when the next batter Jed Lowrie doubled to center. As if this wasn't enough, pinch hitter Kyle Blanks then singled to center, scoring Lowrie. This knocked Warren out of the game, and Girardi brought in Preston Claiborne who, thankfully, escaped without the A's doing any further damage.
But the damage was already done. The Yankees went down in order in the bottom of the tenth to fall 5–2. This was a very winnable game, but the offense couldn't tack anything on in the later innings, and Warren looked about as bad as he had all season. Still, Kuroda looked terrific tonight, so this at least should give Yankee fans a bit of hope that he's finding his grove again and can help stabilize the decimated rotation.
The Yankees will try to end their three game losing streak tomorrow, as Vidal Nuno will take the mound against Jesse Chavez.