Last night, Ian Kennedy's third stint in the Yankee rotation this year started off much like the previous two. Unable to record an out in the third inning, Kennedy was pulled after allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk and getting just six outs. Kennedy only walked one man and did a decent job of throwing first-pitch strikes (doing so to 12 of 16 batters, including all five men he faced in his scoreless second inning), but he simply wasn't getting people out. Ten of the 16 men he faced reached base safely. What's more, he wasn't fooling anyone. Three of his 12 first-pitch strikes were put in play as hits. In total, the Angels swung at 22 of Kennedy's 61 pitches. Only three swings failed to make contact, while 14 of them put the ball in play.
The first four batters Kennedy faced in the first inning hit ground balls, two of which got through for singles, and a third would have had it not hit the mound and ricocheted to Robinson Cano for a fielder's choice at second. With men on first and second, Kennedy grooved an 86-mile-per-hour fastball right down Broadway to Torii Hunter, who crushed it to the 387-foot sign in the left-center-field gap. Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera converged on the ball, with Melky appearing to call for it, but Damon lept in front of Cabrera, slamming his already tender left shoulder into the wall and missing the ball, which fell for a two-RBI double (Damon's fine and Melky didn't really appear to have a play).
Kennedy then got Garret Anderson to pop out on a full count to end the inning, but Howie Kendrick led off the second with another booming double to the same spot on a hanging curve. Juan Rivera flied out to the wall in dead center to move Kendrick to third, and Kennedy responded by walking the Angels' ninth-place hitter, Jeff Mathis, but then managed to strand both runners by striking out Chone Figgins swinging on a perfectly placed cutter just under the hands (Kennedy's only K of the game) and getting Erick Aybar to ground out.
That was the only positive sequence in Kennedy's brief outing. In the third, he was again greeted by a double, this one a hard shot down the right field line off the bat of Mark Teixeira. Four singles followed, the first a well-placed grounder through the first-base hole by Vlad Guerrero, the next a slow hopper to shortstop that Derek Jeter booted, and the last two flares that dropped in just fair behind first and third base. Still, Kennedy had given up his share of hard-hit balls before that sequence, wasn't fooling anyone, and was five batters and three runs deep in the inning and still hadn't gotten an out.
Darrell Rasner came on and got two outs on three pitches without another run scoring, then struck out Figgins to end the inning. Rasner allowed just one run over the next three innings, and the Yankees snuck back into the game with two runs in the sixth on an Xavier Nady solo homer and a Robinson Cano triple that was cashed in by a Melky Cabrera groundout to first base.
That brought the Yankees within one run of the Angels, but Rasner couldn't hold it any longer. Torii Hunter, who was 4 for 5 on the night with 4 RBIs and a great first-inning catch on a dead run toward the wall in center, led off the seventh with a home run. After a groundout, a Howie Kendrick single drove Rasner from the game in favor of Brian Bruney, who proceeded to allow Hendrick and two of his teammates to score, inflating the Angels' lead to 10-5, which is how it ended.
After the game, Kennedy seemed disturbingly undisturbed by his poor outing. Flashing his "What Me Worry?" grin, this is what he had to say for himself:
"It's the first bad outing I've had in a long time. I'm not going to look much into it. I felt like I made some good pitches. Yeah, I got the leadoff hitter on quite a bit [twice in three innings], but got out of it in the second inning. I'm not too upset about it. . . . Even on their singles, like, what, ground balls? [shrugs] So, that's not a big deal. Gave up a couple doubles [three], but I felt like I made some good pitches and competed, which is all that really matters. . . What was it? A bunch of singles and three doubles, or so. I'm just not real upset about it. I'm just gonna move on. I've already done that." [big grin]
All that really matters, aye, Ike? I was high on Kennedy coming into this season, but he's had three chances this year and nothing has changed. After watching him grin his way through his post-game comments, I'm not sure he thinks anything needs to, which could be his biggest problem.
Asked what he'd been doing right in triple-A over the last month that differentiated his success there from his poor outing last night, Kennedy replied, "Honestly, it's quite a bit the same. I just got ahead of guys. I felt like I made good pitches when I tried to get them out. I jammed some guys, got some bloop hits at the end. That second inning, which I told you earlier, I got that leadoff double, and he didn't score. I've been working on throwing that cutter inside and it got me out of that jam. . . . I don't know, I felt like I got ahead of guys fine."
It's one thing to be able to put a bad outing out of your head and accentuate the positive. It's another to be in total denial. Joe Girardi's evaluation of Kennedy's performance was that he got in bad counts with runners on base, forcing him to throw gimme strikes, and that he was leaving his pitches up in the zone. Said Girardi, "You have to make quality pitches on a consistent basis if you want to pitch deep into games and win ballgames," implying that Kennedy did not do that last night. In the YES booth, Ken Singleton and David Cone commented on Kennedy's failure to mix up location or make much of any use of his curveball. Apparently, Kennedy's not going to worry about any of that, though.