On those nights when I get home late, I have to look for clues about what’s going on the in the Yankee game. My phone’s itching to tell me the score from the confines of my bag, but taking it out on the walk home isn’t a great idea.
Tonight I started my journey around 8:30 and it was already weird because I hadn’t had any score updates yet. I figured it must be busted – no way both of these teams were going scoreless for 90 minutes. The next clue came as I got off the subway at 207th st. it was about 9:20. I spotted guy in a Giambi shirt and fitted Yankee cap exiting as well. That looks like a gamer, I thought. I was sure they had come from the game when his girlfriend trailed him up the stairs wearing her Jeter shirt.
At 9:20? No possible way a Yankee-Ranger game was over by in two hours and change. I figured it was a blowout one way or the other. Neither Giambi nor Jeter was giving anything away however. Couple a Tom Landrys. I hoofed it up Broadway and passed the first bar that would have the game on. Commercial on one screen, slo-mo, extreme-closeup replay of a guy in a gray jersey taking a big cut on the other. Shit, that’s gotta be a Ranger roadie, I thought.
The next spot was the cigar shop and I had to slow my stride to take in the full scene. They had their screen split four ways, taking in action all across the league. The Yanks game was such a dud it didn’t even make one of the quarters. OK, now I was convinced. 16-0 Rangers.
I came home and did those things you have to do even though all you want to do is to go right to the scoreboard. But my wife wasn’t feeling well and I took care of her for a little while. She had real news to convey about one of the kids messing up his forearm in a scooter fall. We might need X-Rays. Well shit, that blowout doesn’t seem so important now. I took my shower, I poured my wife some water and helped her off to bed. I ate a slice of cheese in the kitchen. OK, no more stalling, time to face the music.
Holy Shit! I said it loud enough to startle my wife. Hiroki Kuroda just went out and dropped a complete game shut out on one of the best offenses in baseball. He did it with style too, taking a no-hitter into the seventh before Elvis Andrus lucked into an infield single with one of the most lifeless hacks you’ll ever see.
From the numerous highlights of Kuroda’s offerings, you can see how almost every batter is wrong-footed. He’s hiding the ball so well, and releasing each pitch from the same spot that the hitters can’t gauge the speed until it’s too late. From the clips, his location looks good, not superb. It’s that he has the entire lineup deceived. Kuroda’s final, glorious numbers, 9 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks, 5 Ks.
The only problem tonight was that the Yanks couldn’t score any runs. Kuroda gets the least run-support by far among all Yankee starters – a full run behind the rest of the rotation and over two runs behind CC, and tonight it actually went down.
In the seventh, they finally gave Kuroda something to work with. Jeter collected his second hit of the night (and passed Nap Lajoie on the all-time hit list) and knocked effective starter Matt Harrison out of the game. Ron Washington called on Alexi Ogando, a hard thrower to be sure. Nick Swisher worked him over but good and when Ogando tried to beat him with a high hard one on a full count, Swisher jumped the 98 MPH gas and launched it into the bullpen. Just for shits and giggles, Mark Teixeira ripped a 99 MPH pitch into the seats as well.
The final was 3-0 and it took 2 hours 35 minutes to complete. I guess Giambi and Jeter bolted after the no-no was busted up and the Yanks hit their homers. Can’t blame them, the game was over.
Kuroda’s game reminds me a lot of those ALDS games against the Rangers in 1998 and 1999. The Rangers could hit all day, but in those games the Yanks shut them down. Whether it was El Duque, Pettitte, Wells… didn’t matter. Now, these Rangers are a much better vintage than those late nineties teams. They’ve got a few starters that are still healthy and a fierce bullpen. The teams are a lot closer now than they were back then. That’s what makes this game so damned good – it might have even impressed McKayla Maroney.
Photos by Seth Wenig/AP