Originally written August 29, 2013 on isportsweb.com:
All season long, the New York Yankees have been waiting to race with all their horses. And just when it looked like the barn was finally healthy, their thoroughbred has gone lame. Hiroki Kuroda has faltered for the first time all season. Hiroki Kuroda, the team’s de facto ace since April, has stunningly fallen apart in his past two starts. After pitching brilliantly for four and a half months, carrying the crippled Yankees on his back, the 38-year-old Kuroda has suddenly imploded just as the load was lightening. Where he once was a Cy Young candidate, leading the A.L. in ERA on August 12, he is now an unrecognizable cross between a batting cage machine and Phil Hughes. His pitches, not so long ago sharp and precise, are now flat and errant, spilling over the middle of the plate in a manner begging to be clubbed. Hitters have obliged. Two weekends ago at Fenway Park – where this tailspin began – he was tagged for a season-high 11 hits. Then, it just seemed like a blip in the radar, a patch of poison ivy in a field of four-leaf clovers. Now, it appears to have been the early signs of an imminent collapse. Out for redemption in his next start, Kuroda was smacked around The Trop by the Tampa Bay Rays, surrendering seven runs on nine hits – four of them homeruns. Then last night in Toronto, the Jays preyed on the wounded pitcher for seven more runs and nine more hits. Another homerun allowed last night made it five in 11 innings for Kuroda, this after not allowing one in 57 2/3 innings entering his start in Tampa. It’s this suddenness of his meltdown on the mound that leaves people searching for answers. There was no warning that this was coming from Kuroda, who, before hitting a wall in Boston, had given up just three runs in his previous 29 innings. His unraveling has happened all at once, the yarn spilling from a tightly-woven ball like Silly String, his season now on the floor in a gnarled heap. And given Kuroda’s value to the Yankees, it could be the team’s season that comes completely undone next. As it is, the Yankees are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Their position now is as precarious as ever, and one more slip-up will likely be the fall that kills them. They’re alive now, yes, but after losing two of three against the Jays, the team is on life support. With Kuroda’s breakdown, the life support may have just gone out. In a summer where the Yankees could be counted on like a used luxury car, Kuroda was the one man who consistently helped this team win. Robinson Cano has had his struggles. Mariano Rivera has too. And we won’t even mention C.C. Sabathia. But Kuroda, no matter the opponent, no matter the month, has held his torch high. Up until his start in Boston, his summer ERA (June 2 – August 12) was a slender 2.28. And when the going really got tough for the Yanks in July, Kuroda fed life to a dying team with the type of first-class pitching that would widen the eyes of Cy Young himself. In his five July starts, he pitched to an ERA of 0.55. If there was one reason the Yankees were still in the mix when August rolled around, Hiroki Kuroda was it. Now, of course, there are others standing tall to help fortify a flimsy rotation, namely Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova. If this were June or July, the resurgence of Kuroda’s pitching mates would be enough to make up for his own struggles, and one man’s fall would be softened by the rise of two others. But this is late August, the height of a desperate drive to the playoffs, and the Yankees need all hands on deck. Pettitte and Nova together offered hope because they were pitching well on top of Kuroda, providing the Yankees two more legitimate chances to win every five games. Now, with Kuroda crashing, the very reason their improvement was relevant is gone. The revelations found in Pettitte and Nova now feel hollow. They just don’t seem to matter anymore, and if Kuroda can’t return to form, it will stay that way. For just as two ships have unfurled their sails, the one leading the way has begun taking on water. It certainly is a microcosm of the team’s season, a year when one player’s return has been unfailingly spoiled by the loss of another, as if this group of Yankees was never meant to be together. Finally, when it seemed the injuries had relented and the clubhouse stables were full, the team’s most reliable, most consistent, most fret-free player has inexplicably fallen apart. If Kuroda can’t put himself back together, the final game this team plays will be on September 29th, in Houston. (Any season that ends in Houston is an invariably bad one.) For as A-Rod noted a few days ago, the Yankees need wins like oxygen, and now, the man who has administered CPR all year long appears to need it himself.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Carson Palmer's nerve injury 'still lingering'

Adam Dunn to retire after 14-year MLB career

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision, will learn from it

Tiger Woods to open restaurant in Florida next year

Royals beat A's in extras, win first playoff game since '85

Mark Davis: Raiders head coaching job will be 'enticing'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fan on Craigslist offers Nats playoff tickets for threesome

Brady snubs rookie Garoppolo after touchdown pass

Cung Le suspended for failed HGH test

FCC Chairman: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Brain study finds 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had CTE

Tony Sparano to step in as Raiders head coach

Aaron Rodgers says smoking gesture a tribute to Jay Cutler

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

Major League Baseball's 2014 All-Disappointment Team

Jeter introduces 'The Players Tribune,' 'The Voice of the Game'

Grading each NFL's team's play at quarter-season mark

MLB.com posts wrong story saying A's won game

WATCH: Brett Favre in new nose hair trimmer commercial

WATCH: Michigan students protest, call for AD to be fired

Marlins president: We're not trading Giancarlo Stanton

Heckling Knicks fan suing team over ejection

This weekend in NFL stupid

Kobe: Iggy Azalea has had better career than Swaggy P

Yankees News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

All-Disappointment Team in MLB

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision

WATCH: Brett Favre in new commercial

Brady snubs rookie after TD pass

FCC: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Could Jon Gruden return to Oakland?

Marlins: We're not trading Stanton

Study: 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had CTE

Heckling fan sues Knicks over ejection

Sparano to step in as Raiders head coach

This weekend in NFL stupid

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.