When the New York Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal over the winter, it was looked at as move to fill a void in the middle of the rotation. But, the right-handed hurler has been the most consistent starter on the team and last night turned in his most dominant outing in pinstripes and arguably over the last few seasons.
Kuroda tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout silencing the mighty bats of the Texas Rangers as the Yankees won their sixth game in their last seven and second straight against the AL West leaders. The win puts the Yankees 1 ½ games ahead of the Rangers in the loss column for the best record in the American league.
Kuroda has suffered immensely from lack of run support in several no decisions and losses, and last night was once again locked into a duel with the opposing pitcher. Rangers’ lefty Matt Harrison was just as effective, going toe to toe with Kuroda.
Through the first six and a half innings there was no score, but Kuroda was much more economical with his pitches, as Harrison was removed with one out in the seventh when he was reached for a single by Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter. Jeter had moved to 12th on the all-time hit list passing Nap Lajoie earlier in the game. Jeter, who now has 3,244 hits, has Eddie Murray (3,255) in his sights next.
With Jeter on first, Rangers manager Ron Washington made a pitching change calling for Alexi Ogando. For the second straight night, Nick Swisher got the Yankees on the scoreboard with a home run. Mark Teixeira followed with his 23rd homer of the season and the Yankees quickly assumed a 3-0 lead.
Kuroda, who didn’t allow a hit until Elvis Andrus led off the seventh with a single, allowed one more hit to Michael Young in the eighth, but then retired the final five batters he faced to notch the complete-game shutout. It was Kuroda’s fourth shutout of his major league career.
The Yankees (69-47) now sit six games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Rangers (67-48) also have a six-game lead in the AL West, over the Oakland A’s.