ASTROS 3, YANKEES 1
When the Yankees ended spring training knowing they were starting the season with the lowly Astros it seemed the perfect way to start the season with a completely revamped starting lineup. After what happened on Wednesday the Yankees should be careful what they wish for.
The Astros scored a pair of early runs against Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees – for the second straight evening – could not muster an offense as Houston defeated New York in front of a paid crowd of 23,145 at Minute Maid Park.
Dexter Fowler, who is 4-for-8 in the series, had a hand in both Astros runs off the right-handed Kuroda (0-1).
Fowler ripped Kuroda’s second offering in the first inning into the center-field bleachers to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead. Two innings later, Fowler laced a one-out triple to deep center and he scored on RBI grounder off the bat of Robbie Grossman that was misplayed by Mark Teixeira.
Kuroda gave up two runs on only there hits and one walk while he fanned five batters in six innings. But he could have sued the Yankees hitters for nonsupport.
The Yankees offense just could not push any runs across against Astros 23-year-old right-hander Jarred Cosart (1-0).
Cosart shut out the Yankees on four hits, he did not walk a batter and he struck out three in his five innings of work.
They did not fare much better against the four relievers who followed Cosart.
The Yankees did finally score a run in the seventh inning after Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk from left-hander Kevin Chapman and Brian Roberts followed with his third consecutive single to advance Gardner to third.
Manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for Kelly Johnson with rookie Yangervis Solarte and, in his first major-league at-bat, Solarte hit into a double play that scored Gardner.
The Astros got that run back in the bottom half of the seventh when Matt Dominguez touched right-hander David Phelps for an opposite-field home run into the right-field bleachers. In the first two games of the series, the Astros have hit four home runs and the Yankees have none.
Right-hander Josh Fields pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his first save of the season.
The Yankees stranded eight runners and were a combined 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
- Do not blame this loss on Kuroda. Unlike CC Sabathia in the the season opener, Kuroda, 39, held the Astros to just two runs in six innings. This has been the story of Kuroda’s major-league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Yankees. He pitches well and he does not get the run support to show for the effort. That is why his career record is 68-71 and his ERA is a sparkling 3.40, the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher from Japan.
- Roberts did his part for the offense. He was 3-for-4 with three singles that helped ignite scoring opportunities that his teammates failed to capitalize upon. Roberts, 36, is trying to re-establish his career after suffering through four seasons marred by injury. The early results show that he still has a lot left in the tank.
- The Yankees managed just seven hits and Brian McCann and Roberts combined to post seven of them. McCann, 30, was 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. McCann is 3-for-8 with an RBI in the first two games hitting out of the cleanup spot. The five-time Silver Slugger award winner looks very comfortable at the plate in the early part of the season.
- Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano, batting fifth and sixth, respectively, were a combined 0-for-8 in the game, they struck out five times and they stranded seven base-runners. If you need to point at the two biggest culprits in the Yankees’ demise in this game you need to look no further than this pair. Soriano actually swung and missed at two pitches that hit the dirt and one of those pitches nearly hit him. In the first two games Soriano is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts.
- The Yankees have had a history of not being able to hit pitchers they know little about and Wednesday’s game was another example. Cosart was making only his 11th major-league start and his first against the Yankees. The Yankees managed to get their first hit and base-runner with one out in the third inning on Roberts’ single. McCann added a two-out single in the fourth. Then Gardner and Roberts hit back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth. But Johnson into a fielder’s choice and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out and Cosart left the game without yielding a run.
- The inning that defined the evening is the eighth. Carlos Beltran led off with a double against right-handed reliever Matt Albers. However, McCann, Teixeira and Soriano all struck out swinging. Futility is contagious.
Former teammates Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Stanton were among the guests who honored Jeter before the game with a ceremony marking his impending retirement. The Astros presented him with a pair of pinstriped cowboy boots emblazoned with his No. 2, a huge Stetson hat and a free stay and golf lessons at a golf resort operated by Astros owner Jim Crane. The Astros players all came out of the dugout to give a standing ovation to Jeter before he took his first at-bat. Jeter tipped his batting helmet to the crowd.
The Yankees will try to salvage one game and some of their pride in the final game of the series with the Astros on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.66 ERA in spring truing) will make his 2014 debut after ending the 2013 season as the team’s best pitcher in the second half of the season. Nova, 27, was 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA last season.
The Astros will counter with24-year-old right-hander Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 11.00 ERA). Oberholtzer was 4-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 games (10 of them starts) with the Astros last season.
Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
- 18 players and seven pitchers got to enjoy a beautiful day of 75 degrees and cloudy skies to get their work done in front of 5,729 fans in Bradenton. When you do not score against the Pirates there is not much to characterize as positive.
- Curtis Granderson tripled, Nick Swisher singled and Eric Chavez had a pair of singles for the Yankees and that was the day’s offense.
- Jesus Montero served notice he will need to be reckoned with behind the plate. He threw out Ciriaco trying to steal in the third inning as part of a double play. In the next inning he gunned down Alex Presley. So much for Montero being weak on defense.
- Swisher and Brett Gardner made great diving catches to rob a pair of Pirates bids for hits. Gardner also threw out John Bowker trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning.
- Phil Hughes pitched a solid and scoreless two innings in his spring debut. Hughes, 25, did not allow a hit, walked one and did not strike out a batter.
- Hughes, right-hander David Robertson and lefty Steve Garrison kept the Pirates scoreless on just three hits over the first six innings.
- Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a problem in the Yankees two previous spring losses. On Tuesday, they did not get a hit in that situation but the real problem is that they only had two chances. The Yankees had six innings in which the Pirate pitchers faced the minimum.
- Jorge Vazquez’s impossible bid to bat 1.000 for the spring came to an end in the eighth inning. To be fair, the out did involve a bit of bad luck because Pirates reserve first baseman Steve Pearce made a diving attempt to flag down his foul pop over the railing.
- The strikeout was the day’s bugaboo for the Yankees. They fanned eight times and no one struck out twice in the game.
- The game was played in two hours and 16 minutes. So to say the Yankees were not really into this game would be obvious.