Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game Two

You know what is really hard to do? It is really hard to be underrated while playing for the New York Yankees. Donning the pinstripes every night used to be a gateway to All Star teams, awards, and national reverence.

For whatever reason, all the accolades in the world escape a certain member of the New York Yankees. A player who missed out on the All Star game – hosted in New York – despite ranking among the league leaders in ERA, WHIP and OPS against. Despite being the most reliable Yankees starter for the entire season, despite only allowing just five runs over his last six starts, issuing seven walks in his last 40 innings pitched, there is no love for Hiroki Kuroda.

Well, not enough love, anyway.

Blame the fact he’s a middle-aged Japanese man who lacks the kind of periphrial stats that light up a board on MLB Network in addition to the high nineties heat we all love so much, there is no way to get around reality: HIROK is one of the better pitchers in baseball this season.

It doesn’t matter if the idea of “weak contact” is myth, watching Hiroki Kuroda pitch makes you a believer. Kuroda’s average fly ball distance is among the league’s lowest, a nice trick to have when you call New Yankee Stadium home.

But for all his dominance/competence, Hirok struggles to win the hearts and minds of baseball fans. Sad as it might be, it looks like pitcher wins can claim another victim.

Kuroda was not at his very best last night but he gave the Yankees more than a fair chance to win. He pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and a single walk. If you know anything about the Yankees offense, you know that three runs is too many to make up. The Yankees mustered just two runs and Kurodo took another loss.

Now, Kuroda’s exploits are lost amid the Alex Rodriguez circus, which featured a promising development as Chris Sale hit ARod with a pitch in the first inning. Much to the disappointment of White Sox fans, it was but a grazing blow.

After the game, Rodriguez laughed about the “beaning”, noting that it was the first time in probably 2000 at bats that he neglected to wear his protective elbow pad. As he walked to the plate, he told himself “don’t get hit.” Oh Alex, ain’t life funny?

With the Yankees sinking quickly towards irrelevance (outside their sideshow third baseman), it remains unlikely that HIROK will get his due in 2013. Even though he’s performed like an elite pitcher this season, outperforming his underlying stats and simply keeping runs off the board, without the wins (and strikeouts) it will all go for naught. Of all people, HIROK deserves better.

And the rest

In more advanced #Natitude news, Bryce Harper nearly sparked a bench-clearing brawl after he took exception to a beanball in last night’s Nationals/Braves game.

The only thing sadder than Bryce Harper barking at Braves hurler Julio Tehran (without actually stepping towards the mound) are the bleating protestations of the Nats pompom crew, Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo. Enormous credit to beefy armed bro Dan Uggla who dashed between Harper and his pitcher, giving the young Nats outfielder pause. Add left fielder Evan Gattis to the mix and the Braves are not a team I would mess with.

The Nats fell to the Braves 2-1, adding another sad chapter to the long, sad history of #NATITUDE. Because it is 2013, this battle spilled over into the social media realm. When did it become standard operating procedure for official team twitter feeds to adopt a snarky/smug voice? It doesn’t always work, social media gurus.

That’s more like it, B.J. Upton

Holding it down for Beltway broadcasters, here’s Orioles venerable play-by-play guy Gary Thorne with my favorite home run call of the year. []

I actually feel guilty posting this GIF. Poor Raul, he wasn’t even supposed to BE in the outfield today (meaning at all, at age 41, when he was no great shakes in the first place)

Baseball America’s best tools, always a fun read! [Baseball America]

Veteran beat guy leaves beat, second baseman gives exit interview [Chicago Tribune]

No longer the Mariners closer, perhaps Tom Wilhelmsen is a starter now? [U.S.S. Mariner]

The real pink elephant in the steroid room [The Nation]