Joe Girardi was pleased with the New York Yankees' recent homestand, but their upcoming travels appear more challenging.
New York opens its eight-game trip Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies, who will try to recapture their knack for timely hits.
The Yankees (18-12) started a 10-game homestand with four wins before splitting the last six games, including a 5-4 loss to the Athletics on Sunday.
"You get a long homestand and you have to take advantage of it, and I thought we did a good job," Girardi said.
While the first seven of those games came against struggling Toronto and Houston, the treks to Colorado, Kansas City and Cleveland pit them against opponents who have been considerably better in the first five weeks.
The Rockies (18-13), though, have cooled since their 13-4 start, falling for the ninth time in 14 games with Sunday's 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Their production came only from solo homers by Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado.
Colorado was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, just the third time they've gone hitless in such situations this season but the second time in three games. The Rockies have been one of baseball's best teams with a .282 average with runners in scoring position.
"We struggled with runners in scoring position," said manager Walt Weiss, who played with Girardi for two seasons in Colorado. "We hit some home runs, but if nobody hits with runners in scoring position, it's tough."
New York starter Hiroki Kuroda (4-1, 2.25 ERA) has developed a dangerous habit of allowing runners early, but has remained mostly unscathed. He's 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last four outings, though the first inning in particular continues to be a high-wire act for the right-hander.
Hitters own a .500 on-base percentage against Kuroda in the first, when he's allowed six of his nine runs this season. He needed 67 pitches to get through the first three frames against Houston last Tuesday, but finished with seven shutout innings and a season-high eight strikeouts in a 7-4 victory.
"You have to be pretty good to stick around to make it through those first three innings and then be good enough to give your team seven innings," Girardi said.
The Rockies will counter with Jorge De La Rosa (2-3, 4.18), who is coming off his worst outing. De La Rosa gave up six runs, 11 hits and two walks over four innings in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers last Tuesday.
He went six innings in each of his previous four starts, posting a 1.88 ERA.
"I feel bad for the bullpen," De La Rosa told the team's official website. "I'm going to forget this and be ready for the next one."
The left-hander has thrown a combined 11 scoreless innings over two winning starts against the Yankees in his career, but the latest came on July 26, 2007. Travis Hafner is 2 for 9 against him but both hits were home runs.
Kuroda hasn't fared well against Colorado, posting a 1-5 record with a 5.52 ERA. Carlos Gonzalez is 6 for 15 off Kuroda but Tulowitzki is 6 for 28 - though the shortstop is 8 for 21 with two homers in six games against New York.
The Yankees own a 7-5 edge in the series but were swept the last time they visited Colorado, June 19-21, 2007.
The Associated Press News Service
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