Yankees Clubhouse Notebook: Angels hang an unlucky 13 on Yankees' homecoming
Angels starter C.J. Wilson stymied the Yankees offensively for five innings, allowing just two Brett Gardner singles -- the second of which was snuffed out on a double play right afterward.
The Bombers finally got to him with one out in the sixth, as Derek Jeter singled and Carlos Beltran followed with a double. Alfonso Soriano's sac fly made it 8-1 and Mark Teixeira walked right after, but Wilson got Brian McCann to ground out to first to end the threat, and the Angels' bullpen put together three scoreless innings to close it out.
"He's got pretty good stuff. Obviously he's seen a lot of different players on our team over the years, but he's got good stuff and commands the baseball with a lot of movement," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Wilson.
Meanwhile, Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda was anything but sharp, allowing eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits in just 4 2/3 innings,failing to get through the fifth for the first time since last May 22 against Baltimore.
"He just didn't seem to be real sharp tonight, and a couple balls just got beyond the infielders and led to big innings," Girardi said. "His stuff seemed a little flat…there were times [in the past] he was able to find his stuff, he just wasn't able to find it tonight."
Kuroda said the cold weather wasn't an issue, but he was in trouble from the start. He escaped a jam in the first, working around back-to-back, two-out singles, but couldn't do the same in the second. Back-to-back singles by Ian Stewart and Erick Aybar put runners on the corners, and Hank Conger followed with a double that made it 1-0.
"I think that was a key moment," Kuroda said through his interpreter. "I got ahead of Conger 0-2, and I gave him a good pitch to hit that went off the wall."
A suicide squeeze and an RBI groundout later, Kuroda was down 3-0, and Stewart made it 5-0 in the third with a two-run homer. Kuroda rebounded with a 1-2-3 fourth, but in the fifth, Albert Pujols greeted him with a solo shot, and later, with two outs and Howie Kendrick on second, Aybar hit a blast to right that Carlos Beltran misplayed in the corner, allowing Kendrick to score an unearned run.
That was it for Kuroda, who watched as reliever Bruce Billings hung the final run on him, giving up Conger's second RBI double of the game to make it 8-0.
"Overall my command was not good, and my pitches weren't sharp," Kuroda said. "My sinker wasn't good, as well as my slider, and I got behind in the count a lot."
If there was one positive on the pitching side, it was that on a night where Girardi hoped to save his bullpen, he got Billings to give him some decent length. Billings, making his first appearance since being recalled from Triple-A, gave the Yankees four much-needed innings, allowing four runs but also striking out seven before departing with two outs in the ninth.
"He did his job, he did what we needed him to do," Girardi said. "When you come in as a long man, you have to be able to give some distance, and he was able to save our bullpen and let the other guys rest a little bit."
Shawn Kelley, who hadn't pitched since Sunday, finished out the game, allowing a double to Aybar and an RBI single to Conger before striking out Collin Cowgill.
"We talked to him and asked if he wanted to face a hitter. Unfortunately it was three, but he didn't throw a lot of pitches," Girardi said.
In the end, Girardi and Kuroda were ready to put tonight behind them, and both are confident the veteran can turn it around in his next start.
"Right now, there are certain pitches that are inconsistent, but I need to make an adjustment and get them back," Kuroda said. "The biggest thing is to improve the quality of my breaking ball."
"It's been a little up and down this year, at times he's thrown better, but tonight he could just never find it," Girardi added. "Those nights happen for pitchers. You don't ever know when it's coming and you don't want to see it, but he'll be back."
A few other notes from the Yankees clubhouse:
-Girardi said the team would discuss whether or not they would need to add another pitcher after Billings threw 76 pitches tonight: "We'll figure that out later and see what we need to do."
-Brian McCann played first base for the final three innings, and Girardi said, like Thursday, this was just a chance to rest his legs without losing the backup catcher: "You get a little nervous pulling your catcher and not having an extra."
-Girardi on Carlos Beltran stealing third base while down 8-1 with two out in the sixth: "If they're going to give that to us, we're going to take it."
-Despite the rough night, Kuroda was able to be humorous when asked if making in-season adjustments is harder on him as a veteran: "This is my first time experiencing being 39 years old, so we'll see."
-Last word goes to the skipper, on the importance of Kuroda being a "rock" in the rotation: "Every guy is important. Sometimes people want to focus on certain things with certain guys, but each guy has to pull his weight. That's how you win a lot of games…I think he'll figure it out, and I think he'll find his stuff and get sharp for us."