Yanks supply Kuroda plenty of run support
Hiroki Kuroda had some sloppy Toronto base runners to thank for helping him get through an important start for the Yankees Friday night. Their 11-4 victory kept them one game ahead of the Orioles, 9-1 winners at home against the Red Sox, in the American League East standings.
Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar led off the first two innings with doubles, and both were erased on dumb moves on the bases. Nick Swisher, who had given Kuroda a 2-0, first-inning lead with a two-run double, fielded a grounder by Colby Rasmus at first base and noticed Lawrie had broken off the bag at second too far and quickly threw to shortstop Derek Jeter covering for a big out.
In the second inning with the Yankees ahead, 3-0, Escobar was at third base after a wild pitch by Kuroda. As Kelly Johnson struck out, catcher Russell Martin noticed Escobar drifting off the bag and fired a strike to Alex Rodriguez for another huge out.
Kuroda thanked his teammates by not giving up a lead in the game for the first time in six starts. The Blue Jays loaded the bases later in the third inning with two out, but Kuroda got a major out himself by striking out Rasmus with an inside fastball on a full count.
It was not vintage Kuroda, who spent most of his 5 1/3 innings pitching out of the stretch what with all the runners he put on base. The righthander allowed 10 hits and two walks, but the Jays had only one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position off Kuroda, who gutted his way through a victory that improved his record to 15-11.
The Yankees, who have not always supported Kuroda with a lot of runs this year, fortified him throughout this game. Of the Yankees’ 11 runs, nine were scored after two out. The crucial hit was Russell Martin’s three-run home run in the sixth that turned a tight 3-1 score into a comfy 6-1.
Martin’s 20th homer of the season came off righthander Jason Frasor, who entered the game after lefthander Brett Cecil had struck out Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez with runners on first and second. Frasor then walked Eric Chavez and allowed singles to Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki to make it 7-1.
In 19 games since Sept. 3, Martin has batted .299 with three doubles, six home runs and 19 RBI in 67 at-bats to raise his batting average from .195 to .212. With his career-high total, Martin is the fifth Yankees player to reach the 20-homer plateau, joining Granderson (40), Robinson Cano (30), Swisher (24) and Mark Teixeira (23).
It was truly an ensemble offensive effort for the Yankees. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit. The last to join the hit parade was Chavez with a two-run home run in the ninth. He had contributed earlier with two walks and a run. The Yankees had 6-for-15 (.400) with runners in scoring position.