Yankees drop series opener to Rockies despite Kuroda's strong outing
The Venezuelan slugger who jokes that he gets goose bumps when it's 80 degrees, much less half that, has played through snow, bitter cold and winds at Coors Field this season. On Tuesday night, it was lightning and a steady rain.
''Hopefully in two months we'll play in good weather here,'' Gonzalez cracked after his two-run homer off Hiroki Kuroda provided the only offense in the Rockies' 2-0 win over the New York Yankees.
Jorge De La Rosa pitched six scoreless innings, and the Yankees, despite a stellar start from Kuroda, lost their fifth straight game at Coors Field, dating to an interleague series in 2002. They were swept in a three-game set in 2007 in their last trip to Denver's downtown ballpark.
Gonzalez broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the sixth when he sent a full-count pitch from Kuroda into the right field bullpen with a runner on.
''It was a good pitch, too,'' said Gonzalez, whose homer followed a two-out single by Josh Rutledge.
''I was trying to go up and in with a four-seam fastball,'' Kuroda said through an interpreter. ''There was also a part of me that I didn't want to walk him in that situation, so I guess I went to challenge him with my fastball. I was aiming up and in with the fastball but it kind of got into the lower part of the plate.''
While the Yankees have had a makeshift lineup all season due to injuries, the Rockies were without star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the NL's second-leading hitter who was held out with lingering soreness in his left leg.
That meant Gonzalez didn't have any protection in the order, just like last year when Tulowitzki missed most of the year with a groin injury and the Rockies lost a franchise-worst 98 games.
''It's obviously hard. You want to have that guy every single game,'' Gonzalez said. ''He's a game-changer. He can do a lot of things offensively, defensively, but it is what it is. The good thing is ... it's not too bad and he'll be back.''
Tulowitzki expects to return to the lineup Wednesday night.
''He needs to take care of himself. We can't afford to lose him the whole year like we did last year,'' Gonzalez said. ''If you have to sit down one, two games, that's fine with us. But he's very important for this franchise. We need him in the lineup.''
The rain had lightened just a tad when Gonzalez stepped up to the plate on the sixth.
''I always have a good feeling when CarGo's in the box,'' Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. ''That's what he can do. He can change the game with one swing. And that's what it took tonight. Kuroda did a great job and it was one swing by CarGo that was the difference.''
Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton followed with hard singles to put runners at the corners and Kuroda's wild pitch sent Helton to second but Cuddyer had to hold up when the ball caromed off the backstop and back to catcher Chris Stewart. Kuroda then got rookie Nolan Arenado to line out to right to end the inning.
In his first loss since April 3 against Boston, Kuroda (4-2) allowed just two earned runs on seven hits over seven innings. He fell to 1-6 against Colorado in 11 career starts.
De La Rosa (3-3) allowed three hits, walked one and struck out a pair in improving to 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
De La Rosa said he was watching TV in the trainer's room just before his start Tuesday night when he saw Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ get hit in the head by a line drive and taken off the field on a stretcher during Toronto's 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
''When I see that happen, I don't want to tell you now, but I feel a little scared when I was pitching,'' De La Rosa said. ''But I tried just to not think too much about that but just throw my game.''
De La Rosa was the best he's been at any time since coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery late last year.
''It's hard to win games when you get four hits and don't put any runs on the board,'' Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said. ''Kuroda threw the ball well. We just couldn't do anything to support him.''
The only thing that went right for the Yankees offensively was their four stolen bases off catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
''We thought we could run a little bit tonight and we did it,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ''Unfortunately, it didn't work out where we got any runs.''
Beginning a stretch in which they'll play 26 of 40 games on the road, the Yankees didn't bring a lot of pop to the plate.
They managed just three singles off De La Rosa. Matt Belisle didn't allow a hit in the seventh, Rex Brothers pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and closer Rafael Betancourt gave up a leadoff infield single to Jayson Nix in the ninth before getting the next three batters -- two of them on strikeouts -- for his ninth save in as many tries.
The Yankees stranded three runners at third base but each time there were two outs when the runner got there.
''He didn't really give us any easy RBI opportunities,'' Wells said. ''When he did find himself in trouble, he made pitches, so give him credit.''
In the fourth inning a message on the scoreboard warned ''All fans in the upper deck, please leave the seating area, move under cover due to lightning in the area.'' But the game went on.
Weiss said he hopes to have Tulowitzki back in the lineup Wednesday night even though more rain showers are in the forecast.
''It would have to be pretty severe weather'' to hold him out again, Weiss said. ''For the most part, it's just going to be based on how he feels.''
NOTES: The crowd of 41,595 included three dozen members of the Denver Broncos, who watched the Yankees take batting practice and posed for pictures on the field before the game. And unlike in January, Peyton Manning wasn't booed when he took a knee this time. ... Girardi, who was drafted by Colorado in 1992, was presented with a Rockies jersey in a home plate ceremony before the game as part of the Rockies' 20th anniversary celebration.
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