I live smack in the middle of the N.L. West, but it’s still a complete mystery to me. There’s nothing at all impressive about the San Francisco Giants, except that they’ve won two of the past three World Series. For all the talk of the Dodgers and their cable deal (and their payroll) becoming the Yankees of the West, they’re floundering in last place. There’s no more beautiful city in America than San Diego, and yet the Padres haven’t been able to reel in an interesting free agent since they bagged Garvey in 1983 and added Gossage and Nettles in ’84.
And then there are the Colorado Rockies. With a lineup devoid of superstars, unless you count Todd Helton, who seems to have been playing since the Jurassic era, the Rockies have somehow found themselves at the top of this, the strangest division in baseball.
In many ways, the Rockies must’ve felt like they were looking in a mirror when the makeshift Yankees trotted out onto the field on Tuesday night. Remember when Jim Leyland famously referred to the Yankees’ fearsome 2006 lineup as Murders’ Row and Robby Canó? Well, last night’s group looked like Robinson and the Seven Dwarves, with starter Hiroki Kuroda batting ninth in the National League park.
With Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodríguez all in Tampa and Kevin Youkilis also on the shelf, it’s a wonder the Yankees haven’t simply raised the white flag for the season. It’s been an admirable effort, and at times it’s even been fun to watch, as they’ve kept things together through these first six weeks. On Tuesday, though, they raised the white flag.
Kuroda wasn’t exactly brilliant, but he was certainly good enough to win as he cruised through the first five innings, allowing just three base runners over those opening frames. The Yankees, meanwhile, weren’t doing much more than pestering Rockies starter Jorge de la Rosa with more stolen bases (4) than hits (3), and the game was a scoreless tie as Colorado came up in the home half of the sixth.
The inning started innocently enough as Kuroda needed just two pitches for the first two outs, and when he gave up a single to Jeff Rutledge with his fourth pitch of the frame, there was certainly no cause for concern. Some people might have questioned my earlier statement claiming the Rockies had no superstars, and they would’ve cited Carlos González in their argument. But since I wouldn’t have recognized González if he had been watching the game with me from my living room couch, I’m not ready to elevate him to that elite level. Even after he deposited a Kuroda fastball into the right field seats, I still won’t do it. He’s a good player, I’ll give him that.
And that, essentially, was that. Sure, there was some hope when Brett Gardner pinch hit in the seventh and led off with a walk, but that hope started to fade as Gardner sat on first, refusing to steal second even though he had already watched Lance Nix and Chris Stewart (Chris Stewart!) pull off the trick. It disappeared completely when Colorado’s prodigal son ended the inning by grounding into a double play.
There will be games like this for these Yankees, and if we’re really honest with ourselves, we should be less surprised by games like this than when they somehow rack up seven or eight runs. But who knows? Maybe that surprise is coming tonight.
[Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]