It was another lifeless evening in the Bronx as the Yankees' offense did little to help their pitching staff despite fine work on the mound. If that sounds line sounds familiar, then that means like me, you have been watching the 2014 Yankees far too much.
Hiroki Kuroda was the victim tonight, as the veteran righthander was terrific on a night when Joe Girardi really needed length from his starter. Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and David Robertson have all seen a heavy workload over the previous several days, and the Yankees even had to call up mop Jim Miller just to add a fresh arm to the 'pen. Fortunately, Kuroda was so good that the Yankees only had to go to the bullpen once tonight. He threw eight innings of two-run ball on 109 pitches, scattering nine hits, striking out seven, and allowing just one walk. David Huff threw the final inning, a perfect frame that ensured the bullpen the breather they likely needed in anticipation of Vidal Nuno pitching tomorrow.
Regrettably for #HIROK, the scant two runs he allowed were enough for Tampa. The Rays were the first to get on the scoreboard, as they notched back-to-back singles to kick off the fourth and after James Loney fanned, Logan Forsythe grounded a single up the middle to bring home Matt Joyce. Kuroda worked out of it by inducing a fly ball from Cole Figueroa and striking out Jose Molina. The Yankees countered by scoring their lone run of the evening against David Price when Derek Jeter led off the fourth by doubling to center and moving to third on a sharp Jacoby Ellsbury single up the middle. The Rays defense betrayed Price, who picked off Ellsbury, but in the run-down, escaped the out as Ben Zobrist hit the Yankees' center fielder with a throw and the ball bounced away. Jeter came home to score and the game was tied. Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano were unable to do anything with Ellsbury in scoring position though, and the game stayed 1-1. The Rays changed that in the sixth when Loney belted a leadoff homer to right-center field, Kuroda's one big mistake of the night.
Jeter led off the sixth with a single and surprisingly stole a base on a pitch-out (he avoided Zobrist's tag with a nice slide). Of course, the Yankees' offense was unable to do anything with a runner in scoring position and no one out, and Jeter never even got to third base. They didn't threaten again until the bottom of the ninth against Grant Balfour. The wild closer walked Beltran to lead it off, but pinch-hitter Brian McCann and Brian Roberts couldn't do anything to move the pinch-runner Ichiro around the bases. Although pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson walked to provide a glimmer of hope with the tying run in scoring position, Yangervis Solarte continued his struggles by grounding out meekly to end the game. Another banner day for the offense, who were held to four hits and struck out nine times against Price in seven innings before failing to do much against the Rays' bullpen. This hitters are just dreadful and there are really no obvious solutions, so that's fun.
The Yankees have now lost four in a row and are back to .500 for the first time since they were 6-6 on April 12th. It's the latest in a season they've been at .500 since 2007, when they got off to an awful start and were actually quite hot around this time, getting back into the pennant race. The Yankees can only thank their relatively quiet AL East competition for staying in the race at the moment, though both the Blue Jays and Orioles won tonight to pull another game ahead of them. Huzzah.
To prevent them from falling under .500 and getting swept at home by one of the worst teams in baseball, the Yankees will hope and pray that Nuno can be the Nuno who pitched well on Friday night against the Red Sox and not the Nuno who has shown up in most of his starts. Jake Odorizzi will pitch for Tampa, and the day game will begin at 1:05 PM EST.
If anyone needs me, I'll be staring longingly at video footage of the 1998 offense.