While his name isn't likely to come up when discussing the game's best pitchers, Hiroki Kuroda was brilliant his last time out.
He'll try to build on his fifth career shutout Saturday as the surging New York Yankees continue a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
After compiling a 6.75 ERA through his first two turns in the rotation, Kuroda (2-1, 2.87 ERA) delivered a masterful performance Sunday in a 3-0 win over Baltimore, striking out five without a walk in a five-hitter. The right-hander recorded 18 groundball outs and didn't allow a runner past first base until Nick Markakis took second on a bouncer in the ninth inning.
"When I look at Hiroki, he's able to read swings, he's able to change speeds," manager Joe Girardi told MLB's official website. "He has pitches that he can freeze hitters on, certain fastballs; he can get them to swing and miss on his split and slider. He has a curveball that he goes to just to get them off balance. I think he really knows how to pitch."
Kuroda is 6-1 with a 3.68 ERA over his last 11 road starts dating to last year. The right-hander was tagged for a career worst-tying seven runs over five-plus innings of an 8-1 loss at Toronto on May 16, but he's posted a 1.46 ERA in winning his last two starts in the series.
While Colby Rasmus is just 2 for 18 with eight strikeouts against Kuroda, Jose Bautista is 2 for 5 with a pair of homers. Bautista missed the previous four games due to back spasms before going 1 for 3 with a two-run shot in Friday's 9-4 series-opening defeat.
Toronto (7-10) has now lost three off four and dropped to 4-7 at home, where it's gone a horrendous 4 for 53 (.075) with runners in scoring position.
"We can't get anything going. It hasn't come together yet," manager John Gibbons said. "I think it will, it's just a matter of time. But you know what, it's time to start playing better baseball, there's no question about it."
Travis Hafner, meanwhile, hit his fifth long ball and former Blue Jays Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells also went deep as New York posted its fourth consecutive road win. The Yankees (9-6), who have hit .354 and outscored opponents 41-11 over that stretch, have won eight of 10 overall.
"I'm not complaining and I don't hear anyone else complaining," Girardi said. "We've swung the bats really pretty well. We've hit a lot of home runs, we hit a bunch tonight. It's good to see."
New York will try to stay hot against Mark Buehrle (1-0, 7.31), who showed signs of coming around Monday against his former team. The left-hander allowed two runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings, earning the victory in a 4-3 win over the White Sox.
"I'm the same pitcher no matter what team, no matter what batters are in there," he said. "Just try to hit my spots, keep the ball down. My cutter was working a little bit better than it has. ... Just seemed like everything was working."
Buehrle, though, could be in for a long day if his efforts versus New York are any indication. He's 0-6 with a 9.00 ERA over his last eight starts against the Yankees, and his lifetime 6.38 ERA against them is his highest against any opponent.
He's had an especially rough time against Wells and Ichiro Suzuki, who are a combined 42 for 92 (.456) in their matchups. Robinson Cano has also fared well, going 6 for 14 with two homers.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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