Defending the Turf

August 14, 2012, Bronx, N.Y. – The Yankees assured themselves of no worse than a split of their four-gamer hosting the Texas Rangers Tuesday with a 3-0 win, but you would have had to forgive Hiroki Kuroda if he doubted the runs would come, given his 1-0 loss to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners in Yankee Stadium nine days ago. The crafty righthander had a mesmerizing slider all night, and teased 44,000-plus with a no-hit bid for much of the game, but early on he missed a few too many times with his fastball, while his teammates were doing everything but scoring against Texas ace Matt Harrison.

Starting with Derek Jeter’s hard single that ate up Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, the Yanks reached the Rangers lefty for four hits and three walks in the first four frames, but left seven men on base, three of them in scoring position, in a 0-0 game. This became doubly frustrating when Harrison followed another single off Andrus, the second hit by third baseman Casey McGehee leading off the fourth, by retiring 10 of 11 around Andrus’s sixth-inning error.

The Rangers, meanwhile, were having all kinds of trouble solving Kuroda, although they had an early chance in a 21-pitch third inning where DH Mitch Moreland reached on a two-out walk, the second (and last) free pass the Yankee righty would issue. Escaping the inning with one of his 17 ground-ball outs, Hiroki’s strikes/balls ratio stood at 25/17, but it would improve from there, finishing at a better than 2-to-1 count (74/35), with innings of 12, 12, 11, 11, 9, and 12 pitches.

The Yanks benefitted from solid though not exceptional defense: Tex made a nice run and grab on a foul pop well behind first in the fifth, and Cano pulled off the patented throw across his body to retire Moreland on a grounder up the middle one frame later. A strike out got Kuroda through six hitless innings, but Andrus started the seventh by reaching on a grounder up the middle, which though smothered by shortstop Jayson Nix, went for a single when he couldn’t complete the throw. Andrus moved to second on a deep Josh Hamilton fly to right center, then to third on a wild pitch after a strike out of Adrian Beltre. But one of seven grounders to second got Kuroda off the hook in what continued to be a scoreless game.

But not for long. Jeter’s one-out single up the middle in the home half sent Harrison and his 106 pitches to the showers, and righty Alexi Ogando came on to face Monday night hero Nick Swisher. Perhaps inspired by his five-rbi heroics, Swisher adopted the high-socks look this night, but the hard thrower put him in an immediate 0-2 hole with 97- to 99-mph heat. But Swish fouled off two more while taking three off the plate and, with Jeter running from first, drilled the 3-2 pitch deep into the Yankee bullpen. Teixeira followed with a 2-1 tracer into the seats in right, and the Yanks were up 3-0. The scoring was over.

It actually came as a relief that veteran first baseman Michael Young followed three 0-2 fouls leading of the Texas eighth with a clean single up the middle, removing all doubt that an infield grounder would be the lone safety in a one-hitter. And that relief grew when David Murphy ground into a double play two pitches later. A grounder to short sent Hiroki to the dugout with eight clean innings on 97 pitches. With Rafael Soriano warming, Joe Girardi sent him back out for the ninth. Ian Kinsler threatened with a hard drive to the wall in left with one down, but Ichiro Suzuki, replacing Andruw Jones on defense, made the catch. A final ground ball to second got Kuroda a complete-game, two-hit win.

The hard-luck loser was Harrison, as the single he surrendered to Jeter with his last pitch resulted in the first run. He allowed five hits, three walks, and just the one run into the seventh, a fine outing, but not when compared to Kuroda’s. Hiroki coaxed 14 swings and misses from the puzzled Rangers, and finished the game facing two men over the 27-batter minimum.

August 14 history is rife with instances of native populations threatened by invading hordes. The French took Fort Oswego in what would become New York State during the French and Indian War on this day in 1756, and the Seminole Indians were removed from Florida to Oklahoma at the end of the Seminole War on August 14, 1842. International forces, including U.S. Marines, entered Beijing to put down the Boxer Rebellion, with the Chinese trying to drive outside interests from their territory, on this day in 1900; the Japanese surrendered on V-J Day on August 14, 1945; and British troops intervened militarily in Northern Ireland 24 years to the day later.

And the Yankees defended not only their best record in the American League with the Tuesday win in the Bronx, they did so against the Rangers, back-to-back AL Champs, a position the Bombers consider rightfully theirs. With 2012 signee Hiroki Kuroda dominating on the mound, they

defended the Yankee Stadium turf.