Kuroda pitches, A-Rod homers as Yankees win home opener, 5-0

Hiroki Kuroda struck out six, walked two and Hiroki Kuroda struck out six, walked two and gave up five hits in eight-plus innings as the Yankees beat the Angels, 5-0, in their home opener. (April 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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One standout afternoon won't completely change the narrative for either player.

It doesn't mean Alex Rodriguez will stay healthy and, to borrow a phrase he used in spring training, "do damage" throughout the season.

And it doesn't mean Hiroki Kuroda's transition to the American League won't be without the sort of stumbles he experienced Saturday night against the Rays.

But on a sun-splashed afternoon at the Stadium for the Yankees' home opener -- a day that started with a prolonged pregame roar for Jorge Posada, who threw the ceremonial first pitch -- fans had every reason to have nothing but positive vibes about both players.

Not to mention their team.

With Rodriguez thriving as the No. 3 hitter after Joe Girardi tinkered with the lineup and Kuroda pitching into the ninth, the Yankees soared past the Angels, 5-0, in front of a sellout crowd of 49,386 for their fourth straight victory.

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"He was the story of the game," Derek Jeter said of Kuroda (1-1), who allowed five hits in eight-plus innings. "He did a great job."

A-Rod, batting third for the first time this season, went 3-for-4, including his 630th career home run, a drive onto the netting above Monument Park that tied him with former Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth all-time.

Nick Swisher provided the day's biggest hit, a two-out, three-run double off Ervin Santana (0-2) that made it 3-0 in the first inning. Santana struck out Jeter and Curtis Granderson before A-Rod singled and Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira walked. All three scored easily on Swisher's drive to right-center.

Swisher won Wednesday night's game in Baltimore with a two-run homer in the 10th inning and has hit safely in six of the first seven games. He leads the team with nine RBIs.

"I like to think Old-Timers' Day is my favorite day," said Swisher, who had been 6-for-33 with 14 strikeouts against Santana. "But Opening Day here at Yankee Stadium, no one does it like New York City . . . There's no doubt I was fired up."

The Yankees had eight hits, including Jeter's double, A-Rod's solo shot in the third and Granderson's solo blast in the fifth, which made it 5-0.

But Swisher, like Jeter and just about everyone else in the clubhouse, said the unquestioned star of the day was Kuroda, 37, who signed as a free agent in the offseason and was hit hard in his first start last Saturday.

He left the mound to a standing ovation after Bobby Abreu led off the ninth with an infield single that snapped a streak of 10 straight retired Angels.

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David Robertson then induced Albert Pujols to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and struck out Kendrys Morales to end it.

Kuroda said "I was a little bit nervous" in his Stadium debut but added, "I try to have the same approach whenever and wherever I pitch, and I was able to pitch with confidence."

Kuroda commanded none of his four pitches against the Rays, but the opposite was true Friday. He walked two and struck out six, throwing 71 of 109 pitches for strikes.

"It looked like he trusted his stuff a lot better today, but he had better stuff today," Russell Martin said. "He had all of his pitches working for him."

Kuroda also fell behind too many Tampa Bay hitters last Saturday, a result of being "too careful" and trying to pitch to the corners, he said.

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"I was able to pitch aggressively today," he said.

For Joe Girardi, the afternoon pretty much qualified as perfect, starting with the emotion of Posada's ceremonial first pitch and ending with the Morales strikeout.

"You get an early lead, your starter gets you into the ninth inning, that's pretty good," he said. "I don't think it gets any better."

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