Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kuroda Gem Gives Yankees First Home Series Win

Hiroki Kuroda punches the air after punching out Chris Davis.
(photo courtesy of AP) 
When the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda prior to the 2012 season they were hoping to get a pitcher to give them innings, keep them in the ball game, and win more times than not. They not only got all they expected, but much more when Kuroda was their best and most consistent starter for the 2012 season.

Kuroda came into Sunday night's game on the heels of two dubious starts. He took a liner off his finger tip in the second game of the season against Boston, and though he beat Cleveland this past Monday, he still wasn't sharp.

That all changed in front of a national television audience Sunday night against division rival Baltimore. Kuroda dominated the Orioles in a 3-0 shutout that raised the Yankees record to 6-5. The win gave the Yankees two straight series victories and their first one at home.  Kuroda was in control throughout and was pushed to 113 pitches (79 strikes) only because Jayson Nix committed a 9th inning error. With Mariano Rivera loosening in the bullpen, Kuroda struck out Chris Davis for the third time to end the game.

The game itself was reminiscent of last year's wild card series when neither team could hit their way out of a paper bag. Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen was setting down the Yankees with ease until the 5th inning when Brennan Boesch led off with one of his two singles on the night. He moved to second base on Francisco Cervelli's single and then over to third base on a fly out by Lyle Overbay.

Nix made small ball pay off when he lifted a deep fly to right for a ribbie sac fly and a 1-0 lead. Brett Gardner then powered up as much as he can and hit his second home run of the year near the top of the right field foul pole.

That was plenty for Kuroda, whose detractors said would be unable to compete in the AL East. They could not have been more wrong. He limited the O's to five hits, didn't walk a batter, and struck out five. He gave the Yankees innings, kept them in the game, and won. Mission accomplished.

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