Starters’ work improving
Things are looking up for a change in the Yankees’ rotation. One night after CC Sabathia lent eight strong innings to a victory, Hiroki Kuroda provided seven solid innings of his own in a 2-1, nip-and-tuck battle with the Orioles.
Kuroda not only displayed effectiveness on the mound Monday night but also agility off it as he combined with catcher Russell Martin for the defensive play of the game that cut down the potential tying run in the seventh inning.
The Japanese righthander got himself in trouble that inning by giving up a leadoff single to Nick Markakis, hitting Matt Wieters with a pitch and throwing a wild pitch that put runners on second and third with one out. Kuroda recovered nicely to strike out Chris Davis on a splitter.
The next hitter was left-handed-swinging Wilson Betemit. Kuroda had a base open and strikeout machine Mark Reynolds on deck, but the Yankees decided to go after Betemit. A 1-0 splitter bounced off Martin and rolled a few feet to the left of the plate. Markakis made a dash off third base, and so did Kuroda off the mound. Martin retrieved the ball and made a back-handed throw to Kuroda, who blocked the plate and applied a sweeping tag on Markakis in one motion for a stylish third out.
“That was an outstanding play on both sides,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You get a little worried about the pitcher there because his knees are exposed, but Hiroki was fine. As for Russell, he is as athletic as anyone I have ever seen behind the plate.”
“Tenacity pays off in the end,” Kuroda said. “I have complete faith in Russell.”
The relationship between Kuroda and Martin dates to their time together as teammates with the Dodgers. Kuroda’s comfort level was evident in how trusting he was of Martin in throwing split-fingered fastballs with runners on base.
“He pitched effectively inside,” Girardi said. “He attacked the zone all night.”
Kuroda, who improved his record to 2-3 with a 3.69 ERA, allowed one run, four hits, a walk and a hit batter with three strikeouts in seven innings. David Robertson came on the eighth and struck out the side, and Mariano Rivera finished it off in the ninth for his fifth save. It was Mo’s 1,051st career appearance, moving past Kent Tekulve into eighth place on the all-time games list.