After winning games with Chase Whitley and David Phelps on the mound, Saturday night’s game with Hiroki Kuroda on the rubber arrived with more than promise. After getting those two unlikely wins, surely Kuroda would provide the win that would stretch the team’s winning streak to five and make the road trip excellent instead of just good.
It didn’t work out that way.
Scott Kazmir was working for the Athletics, and he quickly made it clear that he wouldn’t be giving up much on the evening. You remember Mr. Kazmir, the one-time super-prospect who fizzled and eventually found himself out of baseball. This year he’s finally become more pitcher than thrower, and he’s suddenly one of the best in baseball. If you missed him last night, you’ll surely be able to catch him in July at the All-Star game.
Kazmir set down the first eight Yankees without breaking a sweat, and with the A’s already up 2-0 thanks to the bespectacled Eric Sogard’s two-out, bases loaded single in the second, there was cause for concern even at that early juncture. But Kelly Johnson worked a walk with two outs in the third, and raced all the way around to third on Brett Gardner’s single up the middle. Derek Jeter followed that with a grounder deep into the hole at short. Andy Parrino made the play nicely enough, but he airmailed the throw over Brandon Moss’s head at first base, and Johnson was able to score to split the lead to 2-1.
Early in the game Ken Singleton and Bob Lorenz had noticed a bank of lights in left field that hadn’t turned on correctly, and they had jokingly wondered what might happen if they weren’t fixed and who the unlucky guy was who’d have to climb the tower into the lights. When the lights still weren’t on in the middle of the fourth, we found out. As the Yankees took the field for the bottom half of the inning, Oakland manager Bob Melvin met with the umpires and a stadium official in a scene normally seen before a rainstorm. But instead of peering into the clouds and waiting for raindrops, the group stared into the darkness above left field, looking for light.
Joe Girardi revealed afterwards that there was a moment when the game was about to be cancelled, but the man who climbed the tower was able to solve the problem and it turned out to be only a 38-minute delay before Kuroda returned to the mound and set down all three A’s without incident.
The bottom of the fifth, however, was different. Kuroda walked Sogard to start the inning, which is never a good thing, then allowed Coco Crisp to reach on a bunt single. Catcher John Jaso looked to bunt the runners over, but a passed ball on John Ryan Murphy moved them to second and third without the sacrifice. Jaso gave himself up anyway with a ground out to first, but he got an RBI out of it as Sogard scored and Crisp took third. Three pitches later Crisp scored on another passed ball. The A’s were up 4-1, and after giving up a single to Brandon Moss, Kuroda’s night was over.
The Athletics put together another run in the sixth when Parrino doubled to left to score Craig Gentry all the way from first, but that was just window dressing. The final score was 5-1, but that might as well have been 50-1. The Yankee bats, never impressive on this night, had been essentially silent since the blackout. Kelly Johnson had doubled to lead off the fifth, moved to third on a Gardner ground out, and been thrown out at home when Jeter grounded to first, but that was it for the Yankee offense. After that Johnson double, Oakland pitchers Kazmir, Dan Otero, and Sean Doolittle retired the next fifteen Yankee hitters, and there was nary a hard-hit ball over the course of those five innings. Lights out? Indeed.
Thankfully, a day game awaits.
[Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images]