Ichiro's ninth-inning homer leads Yankees past Rangers

Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


NEW YORK - Yu Darvish and Hiroki Kuroda participating in 11th matchup between Japanese-born pitchers was big enough news in Japan. The fact that it ended with Ichiro Suzuki hitting a game-ending home run seemed to make it even more significant.
Suzuki hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the New York Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The pregame spotlight belonged to Darvish and Kuroda, who opposed each other for the second time. The first instance was a 2-0 Texas victory last season when Darvish struck out 10 Yankees, but this time, neither was as sharp.
Darvish was allowed a career-high three home runs while getting knocked out after throwing 110 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.
Kuroda was slightly better as he allowed three runs - two earned - and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up two solo home runs to rookie Leonys Martin but grew stronger after the second home run before giving way to New York's bullpen.
"Any game is very important," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "But when you're facing their best, especially in the American League, a pitcher that's always at the top and obviously we have one of our best in Kuroda, so when you get a win like that, it's a win but kind of a bigger win."
"I'm sure over there a lot of people are really happy," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "For me, I was concentrating on what I can do on the mound but I was excited with how it ended."
Suzuki made the game go in favor of the Yankees by lifting a 1-2 97 mph fastball from Tanner Scheppers (5-1) into the right field seats. It was New York's first walk-off home run since Russell Martin connected against Oakland on Sept. 21.
"I think it was just the wrong pitch at the wrong time," Scheppers said. "He's a great hitter. I probably showed him too many fastballs in that at bat. Probably should have went with something different."
Before Ichiro was mobbed at the plate by his teammates, it seemed like the Yankees would have to win it in extra innings, especially when Brett Gardner was caught stealing on the first pitch to Ichiro.
"Ichiro was hitting pretty good," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I felt good with Scheppers out ther with Ichiro, but give Ichiro credit. He caught it. I don't think he ever went through a season where he didn't hit a bomb. He just happened to hit one that won a game."
Ichiro's fifth career walk-off hit also was part of the Yankees first multi-home run game since June 6 at Seattle and their third game all year with four home runs. They had combined on just four home runs over their previous 15 games before Travis Hafner, Brett Gardner and Jayson Nix connected.
"That's Yankee baseball," catcher Chris Stewart said. "We've haven't seen it too much this year."
"Love it," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said of the home runs. "Sometimes it's tough to score runs when you're not hitting home runs. We got enough tonight".
It also was Ichiro''s second such home run. His other was Sept. 18, 2009 in Seattle when he hit a two-run home run against Mariano Rivera.
"He has that thing that he can do with his bat," Kuroda said. "So I'm really impressed."
This time, Ichiro's hit gave Rivera (1-0) the victory. Rivera threw 10 of 11 pitches in the ninth for strikes, ending it with one pitch to David Murphy following a base hit by Mitch Moreland.
Before Rivera's inning, David Robertson worked around a single and a walk in the eighth and that came after left-hander Boone Logan struck out Martin on three pitches.
The home run ended a five-game winning streak for Texas and Darvish's inability to protect two one-run leads resulted in him extending his career-high winless streak to seven games.
"He left some pitches in the wrong spot, two breaking balls and a cutter he tried to get down and in on Gardner and he just dropped the head on in there," Washington said. "He's pitching. I don't see any difference in what he's been doing. Maybe at times he throws pitches he can get away with, but he didn't get away with it tonight."
NOTES: Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira had a cortisone shot Monday for his ailing right wrist that landed him on the disabled list last week just 15 games after he returned. Teixeira has yet to do any baseball-related activities and met with team doctors Tuesday. The Yankees did not have an update, but manager Joe Girardi expressed some concern. "I've said before that it's tricky. What he had is a tricky injury," Girardi said. ... Texas DH Lance Berkman said that he does not have a significant injury and returned to the lineup after sitting out the weekend series in St. Louis as a precaution. ... Yankees SS Derek Jeter and 3B Alex Rodriguez continued their rehabs from an ankle and hip injury, respectively. Jeter took batting practice and fielded ground balls. Rodriguez had a few simulated at-bats. However, according to ESPNNewYork.com, Rodriguez angered Yankees GM Brian Cashman by posting on Twitter that he had been cleared to begin playing rehab games. ... Several Rangers participated in baseball activities Tuesday as RHP Alexi Ogando (right shoulder inflammation) threw his second bullpen session, INF Jeff Baker (sore right thumb) hit off a tee, and RHP Colby Lewis (sore back) and LHP Matt Harrison (back surgery) long-tossed.