Hiroki Kuroda sparkles as Yankees beat Chisox
Any more doubters?
As Hiroki Kuroda slogged his way through the early part of the season, the wails could be heard far and wide: The 37-year-old was just the latest career National League pitcher hopelessly trying to make the transition to the American League.
But it's been some time since anyone has said anything of the sort.
On a sweltering afternoon at the Stadium Saturday, Kuroda turned in another superb outing, this one his best of the season, as the Yankees earned a 4-0 victory over the White Sox in front of 46,895.
"How awesome was he today?" Nick Swisher said. An answer was neither expected nor needed.
Kuroda (8-7), signed as a free agent in the offseason, allowed three hits in seven innings and struck out 11 to match a career high. The righthander, who walked one and hit a batter, retired 15 in a row. Kuroda lowered his ERA to 3.17; it had been 4.56 as recently as May 21.
"I've been really aggressive lately," said Kuroda, who is 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his last seven starts. "Earlier in the season I was facing a lot of hitters I had never faced before, so I tried to be careful to hit those corners and I got behind in the count many times. But now I try to be as aggressive as possible."
Joe Girardi thinks Kuroda's early-season problems had more to do with adjusting to New York than a new league.
"I really think it was the adjustment of coming over here," Girardi said. "I think sometimes when free agents come over here, they try too hard to validate things, and I think he got beyond that after the first month."
Girardi could not have asked for much more from Kuroda. With his bullpen a bit short after the touchdown-sized defeat the night before, the manager said before the game, "We need some distance." That meant six innings at the minimum, maybe even seven.
Kuroda, utilizing what Girardi thought was an equally effective sinker, slider and splitter, delivered with seven goose eggs. After allowing two hits in the first inning, he didn't allow another until the seventh. David Robertson, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano finished up.
"It was huge for our guys and huge for our bullpen," Swisher said. "We've really been using those guys a lot lately, and for Hiro to go out and eat up those innings, I think that means more than anything."
White Sox starter Jake Peavy (6-5) wasn't bad, allowing eight hits and no walks in eight innings with 11 strikeouts. But he allowed three solo home runs, each of which reached the second deck in right, by Curtis Granderson, Dewayne Wise and Robinson Cano.
Granderson's first-inning shot was his team-best 23rd for the Yankees (47-30).
Wise's fifth-inning blast was another highlight in a week full of them. The reserve outfielder retired both batters he faced in the ninth inning of Friday night's 14-7 loss. Wise, who also had a two-out RBI double that one-hopped the right-centerfield wall in the second inning, was 3-for-3. In his last five games, he is 7-for-11 with five RBIs.
Cano, meanwhile, has been as searing as the weather. His 19th home run gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead in the sixth and was his eighth homer in the last 13 games. He hit 11 homers in June.
"Good game," Cano said. "And I don't mean the offense."
In the losing clubhouse, the sentiment was similar.
"I think the whole game he was in control," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Kuroda. "Moving it in and out, working the slider. He just never really gave anybody a good pitch to hit in a hitter's count."