The Yankees played in their third home opener of the year this afternoon, a duel between Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both pitchers came into the game with their own concerns. Last week, Kuroda took a linedrive to his middle finger and was pronounced day-to-day. Meanwhile, Jimenez was coming off a strong outing in Toronto after an awful 2012 season.
The pitching worries were a big part of the first half of today’s game. Jimenez opened up the first inning with an 84 mph fastball, after averaging 96 mph just a few years ago in Colorado. After walking Robinson Cano and allowing a single to Kevin Youkilis, hometown hero Travis Hafner launched a 3-run home run to dead center.
Kuroda lacked control in the first inning, and immediately walked Michael Bourn. What followed was a series of unfortunate events for the right-handed pitcher. There were three ground balls that could have easily been double play balls, but they just happened to bounce off bags and gloves for infield singles. Kuroda’s pitches had the right movement, but defense, bad luck, and wildness helped the Indians tie the game up by the end of the first.
While Kuroda was able to settle down in subsequent innings, finishing 5.1 innings with just those 3 runs scored, Jimenez battled. Only a year and a half ago, the Rockies demanded the Yankees hand over a ridiculous prospect package around Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, but to the dismay of many fans, Brian Cashman rejected the proposal. I couldn’t help but think that this afternoon’s game was a microcosm of Cashman’s last few years. Seeing Jimenez battle to reach 90 mph this afternoon, and struggle against a collage of scrapheap players that fans laughed at, just shows how good this organization has been at identifying talent. That’s not to say that Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner will continue their incredible hitting, but there was a collective unhappiness by fans when the Yankees let Jimenez go to the Indians, or when the team traded for Vernon Wells, or let Nick Swisher walk. Anyway, I can’t reiterate how terrible Jimenez looked after allowing 7 hits, 3 walks, 7 earned runs, and 2 home runs in just 4.1 innings.
Chris Stewart, Brett Gardner, and Youkilis all earned a hit in today’s game, and Ichiro Suzuki had 2 of his own. Vernon Wells had three hits, a double and 2 singles, a walk, and a stolen base. Travis Hafner had 2 hits, one a 3-run home run, and 2 walks. Robinson Cano was the star of the game, going 3 for 4, with a double and 2 home runs, as well as a walk. There’s a lot to say about today’s offense, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.
Boone Logan pitched in relief, and immediately earned a double play when he entered the game. After struggling through his last 2 appearances, Logan again struggled in the remainder of today’s work, but was pulled in favor of Shawn Kelly. Kelley showed off a very strong slider, struck out all 4 of his 4 outs, but also allowed 3 runs on 3 hits, one a home run. Joba Chamberlain pitched the 9th inning without his mustache. He had very little control unfortunately, walking 2 and striking out 1 after throwing 30 pitches.
Overall, it was quite a day to pad your stats for the offense. The pitching from Jimenez was obviously very weak, but the Yankees hit just about everyone the Indians could find. They only scored 11 runs or more 7 times last year, so it’s nice to see them finally score some runs after what happened in the first few games of this season.