Kuroda twirls shutout as Yanks take series from Orioles

Betances unable to escape the first on Sunday
Fan Confidence Poll: April 15th, 2013

As much as I love homers and lots of offense, there is nothing quite like a dominant pitching performance. The Yankees got an absolute gem from their number two starter in an important early-season game on Sunday, shutting out the division rival Orioles 3-0.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

#HIROK Star
This says all you need to know about Hiroki Kuroda‘s outing: the Orioles didn’t get a man to second base until there were two outs in the ninth, and that was the result of an error. The veteran right-hander showed no lingering effects of the line drive he took to his finger tips two starts ago, keeping the Fightin’ Showalters off balance with a two-seamer that was running all over the place and offspeed pitches that were dotting the edges of the zone. Kuroda threw 54 fastballs and 59 offspeed pitches (32 splits, 23 sliders, four curves), so yeah, good luck figuring out what was coming next.

Twenty-two of the 32 Orioles batters saw a first pitch strike and 24 of 27 outs were recorded on the infield (five strikeouts, 18 ground balls, one pop-up). Five singles, no walks, no hit-batsmen, and because no runners made it as far as second until the game was basically over, Kuroda was never really in much trouble and never once did it feel like Baltimore was on the verge of putting together something big. He was in complete control from start to finish. It was Kuroda at his finest. Just a joy to watch. I wish he was five years younger so they could give him a five-year contract. Seriously.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

First The Small Ball, Then The Long Ball
Kuroda and Wei-Yin Chen matched zeroes for the first four and a half innings, but the Yankees finally broke through for three runs in the fifth. Brennan Boesch and Frankie Cervelli opened the inning with singles, and Boesch moved to third on Lyle Overbay‘s sacrifice fly. Backup backup shortstop Jayson Nix has been pretty terrible this year — came into the game 3-for-19 (.158) with eight strikeouts — but he plated the first run of the game with a sac fly to right. A run was sufficiently manufactured.

Of course, the Yankees are the Bronx Bombers are it’s only a matter of time before they get back to hitting the ball out of the park. One pitch after Nix’s sac fly, Brett Gardner (!) muscled up on a high fastball and clubbed a two-run homer high off the right field foul pole. It wasn’t a Yankee Stadium cheapie, that thing was long gone. The only question was fair or foul. Two singles, two sac flies, and one really long homer resulted in a three-run lead. That was all Kuroda needed.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Leftovers
It’s not that easy to win a game when your 3-4-5 hitters combine to go 0-for-11 with one walk and four strikeouts, but that’s exactly what the Yankees did on Sunday. Heck, add in Vernon Wells and it’s still 1-for-15 with a walk from the 2-3-4-5 hitters. The rest of the lineup went a combined 6-for-14 with a walk. The middle of the order has been carrying the offense early on, so it was good to see the rest of the guys pick them up when they had their first real bad game.

It’s not easy to out-bad defense Eduardo Nunez, but Nix has certainly done it thus far this year. He fumbled the exchange on a double play pivot and then muffed a ground ball in this game, but thankfully neither came back to bite the team. Considering the injuries to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as well as Nunez’s general shakiness, the Yankees need to find themselves a more reliable utility infielder at some point.

In other offense news, Gardner’s dinger was only his third career homer off a lefty, and his first against a southpaw since taking Ricky Romero deep in July 2010. That one was his only career grand slam, as you surely remember.

Oh by the way, Kuroda has now recorded the last three Yankees complete-game shutouts. He did it on July 18th (seven innings, rain-shortened) and August 14th (two-hit the Rangers) of last year. Remember when everyone was worried how he would transition to the AL East? Good times.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off on Monday, then the Diamondbacks come to town for the three-game series. Ivan Nova will kick that one off against Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday night. In case you’re wondering, no, former Yankee Ian Kennedy is not scheduled to pitch in the series. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to go to any or all of the games.

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Betances unable to escape the first on Sunday
Fan Confidence Poll: April 15th, 2013
  • Anthony

    Kuroda back in form. Bottom of the lineup contributing. Definitely feeling good.

    • dalelama

      I thought it was only a sacrifice fly if the runner scored.

      • Sangreal

        In pretty sure you’re right; that stood out to me as well. I believe you could have a sacrifice bunt but otherwise it’s just a productive out

        • dalelama

          Yeah, I am 99.9% sure it is only a sacrifice fly if the runner advancing after the catch scores regardless of which base they tagged up from.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    A thing of beauty.

    • Pseudoyanks

      Hells yes.

    • trr

      I smiled

  • Kramerica Industries

    and his first against a southpaw since taking Ricky Romero deep in July 2010. That one was his only career grand slam, as you surely remember.

    Came during an 11-run inning. In fact, it capped it off. It was a Saturday afternoon game the day before Independence Day, and Andy Pettitte was pitching for the Yankees on that afternoon.

    So…yeah.

    • forensic

      Actually, A-Rod hit a 3-run double later that inning to cap it off.

      • Kramerica Industries

        Well, there goes my belief that I had full recollection of a random Saturday afternoon game from three years ago.

        :sad face:

        • forensic

          heh, sorry, still pretty good though.

          • Kramerica Industries

            It is one of my favorite things to irritate Mike with from his posts.

            Of all the relevant information posted, and I highlight the irrelevant stuff. Just be glad that all you guys know is the internet version of me; the annoyance doesn’t stop once Kramerica Industries returns to real life.

      • Get Phelps Up

        A fly ball that the outfielder lost in the sun. And then the next day Gardner hit an inside the parker on a fly ball missed by none other than Dewayne Wise.

        • forensic

          And that one was off Brandon Morrow. The only pitcher who has given up 2 homers to Gardner in his career.

  • forensic

    Despite the win, still a sad lineup against lefties. And after McCarthy, they’ll face two more lefties against the D-Backs.

    • vicki

      come on, guy.

      • forensic

        Sorry, it’s a nice win, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore everything else. They were inches from being up just 1-0 if Gardy’s ball goes foul (and that’s if you think Boesch’s two hits off a lefty are moderately reliable).

        Of course it counts and it’s great tonight, but…

        2 of their next 3, 3 of their next 5, 5 of their next 8, 6 of their next 10, and 7 of their next 12 games are against lefty starters.

        That takes them up to the Astros series at the end of the month, when they’re scheduled to face another lefty starter.

        This win was awesome, but I also look ahead and you can’t count on your starters to throw near shutouts every night (at least when they’re facing lefties). They’ll need some more production to win more of all those games against lefties. And, obviously, they’re bound to lose some against righties too, so they need to try to keep pace somehow.

        • dalelama

          Don’t forget the generous call when Nix never gained control of the throw that started the DP. However, a win is a win.

  • Anthony

    Almost 1200 comments on the game thread on CC. Don’t go there often but man, that’s a lot. Must have been hella frustrated.

    • forensic

      Huh?

      • The Doctor

        Talking about an Orioles blog, they have a tendency to get quite angry.

      • Anthony

        Yeah, Camden Chat (SB blog for O’s)

        • forensic

          Ah, you left that little tidbit out of the original comment. :-)

          I assume that’s from Friday’s game and not another CC game?

          • Kramerica Industries

            I think he means 1200 comments from tonight on Camden Chat (CC).

            • forensic

              Ah, geez, I totally screwed that whole thing up.

              • Anthony

                Oh, I see the confusion. CC for our CC as opposed to Camden Chat. Sorry for my laziness with abbreviations, haha.

                • forensic

                  It’s all good. Clearly I’m the only one who missed it.

    • BigBlueAL

      Since you mentioned it I went over there to read some of it toward the end of the game thread and the best part was someone basically accusing Kuroda of PED’s since he is pitching so well and apparently improving at his age.

      • Anthony

        Must have missed that one. That’s pretty pathetic (and hilarious).

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Because that’s what people whose team sniffed the playoffs by fluke after 14 years of finishing under .500, in an incredibly boring city, would think.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Eh. I’m over there occasionally; that guy who suggested that was not one of the more respected regulars.

          The authors are as level-headed as any baseball fans.

  • forensic

    That’s a pretty random A-Rod photo in there.

    Testing the theory that any mention or sight of A-Rod results in an immediate uptick in site visits? :-)

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I was originally going to put a pic of Granderson sitting in the dugout, but it was too damn big even after I cropped it. For a fun game, the pictures were quite boring.

      • Get Phelps Up

        Where do you get the pictures from? Is there somewhere you can just download them?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          We’ve got access to AP, Getty, etc. through YES.

          • Get Phelps Up

            I see.

    • Yankee in Exile

      I kind of liked it. Seemed like a great bridge between Gardner’s homer and the sluggers not hitting. “Here’s A-Rod sitting and watching somebody else do his job.”

  • Eddard

    This team just keeps finding ways to win. The starting pitching carried it to two wins in the series while the offense did just enough. That’s the formula for success. Now we’re above .500 and have an NL team coming into an AL park. Even with Phil and Nova pitching in the series we should have the advantage.

  • Dalek Jeter

    It’s weird, the last 42 isn’t pitching/playing on Jackie Robinson day…

    • vicki

      yanks will observe on tuesday. robbie will rake. likely to an extent that mo won’t appear.

      • Rick

        Though I don’t know his exact numbers, Robbie does appear to rake on, in the words of pope Jay-Z, I jack, I rob, I sin day.

  • Eddard

    What is the appeal of John Kruk? I hate how everything has become lowest common denominator these days and that’s what Kruk is. All he did was make wisecracks all night. When he did have game analysis it was that Nix didn’t catch the DP toss when it was in his glove. If ESPN and FOX were smart they’d go after Coney, who I think is the best analyst in the game, but I guess we don’t have to worry about that.

    • WhittakerWalt

      There isn’t any appeal. It’s a total mystery how this guy has a job.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        He brings “color,” as well as things wrapped in bacon that have no business being wrapped in bacon.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Wait a minute, nothing in this world exists that has no business being wrapped in bacon.

        • WhittakerWalt

          From what I can gather, Krukie’s job is to be 100% percent about everything all the time. This is the same man who said Chone Figgins should win the MVP award back in 2005. I believe that was also the year when he said Randy Johnson would win 30 games.
          Maybe they put him on the air to make the rest of us feel smart.

    • Jim Is Bored

      My favorite part was when he was talking about how Chris Davis swung at a pitch way out of the strike zone because he was scared of getting an un-hittable pitch later in the at bat.

      No, idiot. He swung because he got completely fooled. No one tries to swing at pitches they have no chance of hitting.

  • Tom

    While I like Gardner’s patient approach overall, I also like that he’s been ambushing some first pitches this year. Even if it’s an out, it will help keep pitchers honest instead of them just pumping in a fastball to get ahead of him all the time.

    His other HR came on a first pitch and I think he’s now 4 for 8 on 1st pitches (insert small sample size caveat here).

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      I agree completely.

      Even though he hasn’t hit much for average yet this year, he consistently works the count. It will be awesome if he can continue to spank a few first pitches every once in a while to keep them honest.

  • stuart a

    Kuroda was phenomenal.

    Cervelli so far so good. even when he gets out he usually makes the pitcher throw pitches…

    • forensic

      Throw Kuroda a parade?

      • Get Phelps Up

        And give him a raise…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Welcome back, stuart.

      • WhittakerWalt

        This dude must be so bummed he can’t use any of his ARod material for the next few months. Look for him to once again try convincing us that Cano’s not any good.

  • dkidd

    anyone know who cervelli was pointing to after the last out?

    i’m looking forward to seeing the diamondbacks; they have an underrated line-up

    • forensic

      They lost Kubel right as Ross came back, so that nicely seems to take away a nice DH option for them at least.

      I’m curious how their pitching actually is. Miley and Corbin (games 2 and 3), at least, have nice numbers but their last 3 series have been against 3 of the 4 lowest scoring offenses in the NL.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      I noticed that too. It also seemed like he initially set up inside (or gave the impression he was) then moved the target to the outside corner at the last minute once Kuroda started his motion. He was obviously quite pleased with the result, as evidenced by an extra emphatic fist pump and the point to the dugout.

      My uneducated guess is that he was pointing to Joe G, or another coach on the bench who instructed him to do the little setup feint, possibly to prevent the runner on 2B relaying pitch locations?

      • mike

        More likely because one of the coaches reminded him Davis was fooled on fastballs earlier in the game which moved back over the plate and caught the inside corner, so by feinting inside you would get Davis ( who likely wanted to jerk a HR over the short fence) would have prepared for a tighter swing and be unable to adjust to an outside pitch

  • Dalek Jeter

    Finally saw highlights of the game (there’s Yankee games 5-7 days a week, Game of Thrones only once) that was one hell of a DP turn by Robbie.

    • jjyank

      It was a pretty DP, for sure. While not the safest, I love watching DP turns on a barehanded catch. Just looks so much more bad ass.

    • WhittakerWalt

      That DP was epic, but as I watched it I couldn’t help but think Jeter never would have gotten to the ball that Nix got.

    • DInnings

      Excuse me, EXCUSE ME.

      Give Nix credit for getting the ball and flipping it to Robbie so Robbie could turn the DP.

      ‘Love the Nix hate on here. I mean I’m not thrilled he’s playing shortstop every day but I’m not hating him so much I’m criticizing him for getting a ball Derek Jeter wouldn’t have got to and Nunez can’t get to because he’s hurt yet again and completely ignoring his role in a double-play.

      6-4-3 not 4-3 where the ball magically appears in Cano’s hand with Cano’s foot on the bag and he throws it to first for the DP.

      • Havok9120

        Dude. Chill.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Must have been having a terrible night.

  • Pseudoyanks

    OK, who thought we’d all be this happy on April 15th…raise your hand!

    • Jersey Joe

      We’re one game above .500. Not terribly excited.

      • CountryClub

        that’s good for 1 game out of first place.

  • BeastMode11

    Its not a SAC Fly on the ball where he went from 2nd to 3rd. A SAC Fly from the out field only occurs when the runner tags and scores from 3rd. Unless he could somehow tag and score from 2nd without a error, which is border line impossible. Just letting Mike know for future reference.

    • WhittakerWalt

      The last time I saw that was in ’96. Andy Fox scored from second on a sac fly.

      • Michaeljpoole

        I am sure I remember the Rays score on a sac fly from 2nd two or three years ago. Gardner made an amazing catch in center winding himself in the process so he wasn’t about to get the ball back in until the right fielder came over to help

    • http://b-rar.tumblr.com Brendan

      I vaguely remember Tim Raines or maybe Homer Bush scoring from second on a fly ball out in ’98.

  • DInnings

    Um, are you on some alternate planet, Mike? Yep.

    Nix engineered a double-play late in the game. Or do you think the receiver is the ONLY guy who turns it? Sheesh.

    • forensic

      Ok, he didn’t mention it.

      But, you’ve made two comments so far. Where are your mentions of his screw-up on the earlier would-be double play and his error on the routine groundball?

  • vicki

    i hear tell guidry’s cy year thurman would ask him before every start “how many you need today?” gator always said “gimme two.” hirok’n’roll.

    • Kosmo

      true story.

  • vicki

    chris davis SUCKS.

  • Kosmo

    no doubt Nix is not the best UI but to replace him with another scrub would be difficult. Not many good/really good UI around or available at this time. A healthy Mustelier/Nunez and DJ would maybe negate having to carry Nix. Mustelier is servicable at 3b and 2b and as we´ve seen not an automatic out. Money aside the Yanks could have done themselves a favor to sign either Keppinger or Izturis during this past OS.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He’s Option C. Option D is Gil Velazquez.

      Really……how many teams could put up better third and fourth options? Not many.

      I’m not joining in the Nix-bashing.

      • mike

        agreed – big hit off of Verlander, nice AB yesterday…i wouldn’t expect more from a 3rd string IF, considering how he directly contributed to 1/3 of their wins this year, and his defense hasn’t yet cost them a single run.

  • LarryM Fl

    A very good game last night, I tip my hat to Hideki. He was in control. I know the season is young but St. Philip should be able by exposure observe the ability of Pettitte and Kuroda to pitch. There control and mixing up the pitches is masterful. St. Phillip can not have two better examples to follow.

    The Yanks offense may not be powerful but it seems to have enough contact quality hitters through out the lineup to present possibilites with scoring runs. I do miss Teix., Grandeson and Jeter. Their return will add some consistency to the offense. I just don’t believe Jeter and Teix. will be right this year. I just hope Girardi does not force the issue with their playing time because of the pay checks. Now Nunez and Overbay could have something to say about the playing time. We shall see.

    Good win!

    • forensic

      I tip my hat to Hideki

      Close… ;-)

      I know the season is young but St. Philip should be able by exposure observe the ability of Pettitte and Kuroda to pitch.

      Why didn’t that happen last year then?

      I just hope Girardi does not force the issue with their playing time because of the pay checks. Now Nunez and Overbay could have something to say about the playing time.

      Nunez is sort of a wild card depending on how Jeter looks and what they think of him. But, are you actually suggesting or thinking that they’ll keep Overbay on the roster after Teixeira is back? There’s approximately zero chance they do that. He has nothing to offer other than his moderately good defense, which obviously Tex is better than anyway.

      • LarryM Fl

        I do not disagree with Teix. being the superior player when healthy when Overbay is in the conversation. But if you believe Teix.when and if he comes off of the DL. He will be ready for the prime time. IMHO this is an error. He’s a slow starter to begin with the bat and tendon sheath injuries which have become a part of the conversation over the last couple years are tough to heal. So I believe Overbay still needs a spot somehow someway.

        The Yankees have three starters who can win when their pitching is off, CC, Pettitte and Kuroda. Hughes sits and watches these guys 4 days sitting in the dugout. He is exposed to their every aspect of pitching. He pounds the zone( baseball talk)and gets pounded because of location. Either he changes or his uniform will change. It might not of happen for many reasons but I’m not in the dugout or clubhouse. My comment was the same as yours. Why doesn’t this exposure help him.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I understand Tex might not come back ready to be 100% effective with the bat, but I don’t see how Overbay can keep a roster spot once he’s activated.

      Nunez will get his at-bats. That I agree with.

      • Havok9120

        I not only don’t see how he CAN keep a spot, I don’t see how he SHOULD either. Even a completely reduced Tex who can barely hit would offer effectively the same offense as Overbay with better defense. It’s probably the clearest upgrade that we’ll get from returning players.

        • Kosmo

          Agreed but if Tex aggravates or reinjures his hand who would replace him ?
          Boesch ?

  • Jim Is Bored

    Only the 2nd game I’ve been able to watch start to finish and the Yanks are 2-0 in those.

    Maybe I need to make these games a higher priority…

    • Havok9120

      So it’s YOUR fault we lost two nights ago.

      Now I understand.

  • Jersey Joe

    Said this before, but I really like what Overbay has been offering the team. His OBP isn’t terribly high, but if we stash him in the 8-9 hole, and he keeps hitting singles and starts to walk like he used to, we’ll have a productive, good fielding 1B on our hands.

    Despite all of this, I would have no problem if Boesch takes over at first base. But I’d rather have Boesch starting over Ichiro for the time being in RF.

  • JK

    “Gardner’s dinger was only his third career homer off a lefty, and his first against a southpaw”. I am sorry, what’s the difference between a lefty and a southpaw?

    • Jim Is Bored

      Include the rest of the sentence.

      It was a way to avoid using “lefty” twice in a really short span of words.

  • JLC 776

    You had to feel good for the night when Hiroki got through lineup the first time as easily as he did. Always a good sign for the guy – especially on a cold, wet night!

  • mt

    Isn’t it funny (or maybe this is so ironic that it is almost to be expected) that of all the talk of Yankees signing or re-signing all these “done, washed up” players, the only player who looks done is the one player who they made any type of commitment for next year that impacts the $189 million ($6.5 million)? – (Wells does not really count because of the Angels subsidy).

    Of course a Small Sample Size but is it a SSS really? Michael Kay said on Yes on Saturday that Ichiro has started slowly before but something to the effect that “of course, history shows he will come around” – Mr. Kay, let me introduce you to 2011 and 2012 history (except for those on fire two or three weeks that made total 2012 numbers respectable).

    If Boesch continues to look alive, sad to say but they will probably send Boesch down and keep Ichiro. When Grandy, Tex, and Jeter come back I have assumed Francisco, Overbay, and Boesch go to AA or get cut.

    I don’t see Nix going down because backs up 2B if Nix gets sent down (and don’t say Cervelli)?. Maybe Boesch stays becase he can work himself into a back-up 1B or someone else is injured at that point. Or they cut it close and have Nunez as almost primary starting SS against lefties defensively and back-up 2B and Jeter is almost a full-time DH against lefties and SS against righties at the beginning of his time back (which means they could initially cut Nix instead of Boesch) However, I see Yanks being more careful with Jeter than this scenario.

    As they say, let’s wait to see when and in what shape folks get back to ML roster (and who else on ML roster gets injured in the mean time) before this becomes a problem. For me, Yanks have so few major league position players below 30 who one can at least hope still has some upside that I would hate to see Boesch sent to AAA. Boesch just turned 29 on Friday (Gardner is 30 (!!!) in August, Cano is 31 in October, and Nunez is 26 in June.)

    • Jim Is Bored

      Boesch won’t get cut. He’s part of next year’s plan. He has an option(s?) left, he’s definitely slated for the minors when Grandy returns.