Monday, August 12, 2013

Let's get this straight, Hiroki Kuroda is a top three candidate for the American League Cy Young award. The Yankees most dominating and consistent pitcher in 2013 was at it again Monday night, tossing eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels in the Yankees 1-0 win.

Kuroda was just as dominant as any other outing for him this season. The only three hits he gave up on the night were a double to Josh Hamilton to open the 2nd, an infield single by the speedy Mike Trout, and a double by Chris Iannetta with two outs in the 8th.

He worked very economical all night, need just 16 pitches to get through the 6th and 7th innings combine, with a total of 107 pitches for the game.

"His offspeed stuff is very difficult to pick up," Angels catcher Chris Iannetta said. "The rotation on it, you couldn't really pick it up. You had to wait a long time, which made you late on the fastball. If you're trying to hit the fastball, you're ahead on the offspeed. He kept guys off balance -- very deceptive, very good location."

Although Kuroda has pitched well all season, his low win total has been the product of very poor run support from the Yankees offense. That wasn't much of an issue Monday night, as Kuroda kept Anaheim off the board, the Yanks were able to put a pair of runs on the board to back Kuroda.

The Yanks first run came in the third inning after Eduardo Nunez single to center field with one out, then a well timed hit and run put on by Yankees manager Joe Girardi move Nunez over to second on a groundball out by Chris Stewart.

A couple pitches later, Brett Gardner, Sunday's hero with his walk-off homerun in the 9th inning, lined a single into left-center field that brought home Nunez, giving the Yanks a 1-0 lead.

Angels starter Garrett Richards battled with Kuroda all night, virtually matching his line, apart from a couple mistake here and there. His biggest mistake of the game was a fastball to Curtis Granderson in the 7th inning that he left right over the plate, that Granderson would put into the second deck in right field, extending the Yankees lead to 2-0.

"[Granderson] knows when he's starting to get right," Girardi said. "It's a feeling you feel when you're seeing the ball better. [Richards] has good stuff."

Like Kuroda, Richards pitched into the 8th inning, giving the Angels an equally impressive performance, permitting just the two runs on seven hits, while walking one and striking out three in eight very solid innings, with just the couple of mistakes to his credit.

With Mariano Rivera not available to pitch, Boone Logan was the man to come into the game for Kuroda, who finished with a line of no runs on three hits, while walking one and striking out seven in eight innings.

"I told Larry I will pitch no matter what, but I would take the day off if it's OK," Rivera said.

J.B. Shuck opened the inning with a single to right field off the first base bag, then Logan came back to strike out Kole Calhoun. Girardi then pulled the plug on Logan, bringing in David Robertson to get the final two outs.

Robertson walked Trout to put runners on 1st and 2nd, then Hamilton blooped a shallow fly ball over A-Rod at third that brought home Shuck, moved Trout to third and put Hamilton on second. Robertson intentionally walked Erick Aybar with first base open to load the bases.

Robertson struck out Mark Trumbo for a big second out, then he Chris Nelson to a full-count and struck him out on what would have been ball four to end the ball, and give the Yankees consecutive wins for the first time since July 11th-12th.

"It was a little different, but we've got a pretty good bullpen down there," Stewart said. "We've got guys that can do the job. They made it a little interesting toward the end. They didn't get hit hard, but balls fell in. They kept their cool and finished the game out."

Monday's start was just another in the impressive run by Kuroda, as he's now 4-1 since the start of July, with a stellar ERA of 0.94. It was also the 5th scoreless outing in his last nine starts, and the 9th scoreless start this season, a major league best for Kuroda.

"We saw last year, coming into the [American League] East is not an easy task," catcher Chris Stewart said. "For him to come in and do what he did last year is really special. He's topping that -- even better this year. It just goes to show you, he's a veteran guy, he doesn't get fazed out there. With runners on base or in scoring position, he goes into shutdown mode and eliminates runs. He gets extremely focused."


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