Hiroki Kuroda turned in his second straight quality start on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, he ended up the hard luck loser in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Kuroda threw seven strong innings of two-run ball with three strikeouts. The Royals only managed five hits against the veteran. Unfortunately, Big Game James Shields was toeing the rubber for Kansas City, and held the anemic Yankees’ offense in check for six innings. before turning the game over to one of the best bullpens int he American League.
“We get a great performance from Kuroda,” Girardi said. “And we weren’t able to do anything with it.” (h/t Chad Jennings, The LoHud Yankees Blog)
Kuroda has a 3.30 ERA over his last seven starts. This comes on the heels of a horrific April, in which the supposed Yankees’ number two starter went 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA. The month of May was significantly better for the Japanese import. Kuroda went 2-1 with 4.00 ERA in the month of May. In two starts in June, Kuroda has a 1.35 ERA.
The Yankees desperately need Kuroda to pitch like a top-of-the-rotation starter and eat up innings. The bullpen has been worked to death over the first two months of the season. There has been a revolving door in the back-end of the bullpen and the front-end needs rest. The starters have not been going deep into games this season. Only Masahiro Tanaka has been consistent in eating innings for the Yankees. Rotation stalwarts CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have all been on the DL for the majority of the season. The gaps have been filled by the likes of David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley. While their effectiveness has varied, none of the three has been able to consistently last more than five or six innings.
If Kuroda can turn the corner on a dreadful start to the season, which followed a lousy end to the 2013 and pitch like he did in the beginning and middle of last season, the Yankees may be able to play themselves back into the AL East race. The Yankees have dropped to .500 and are now six games back of the rolling Toronto Blue Jays. The offense has been atrocious, but without solid,consistent pitching, this team will be on the outside looking in come October.