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Charged For The Playoffs: Hiroki Kuroda

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Hiroki Kuroda has pitched some great games for the Yankees in 2012, especially during this past week.
Hiroki Kuroda has pitched some great games for the Yankees in 2012, especially during this past week.

Hiroki Kuroda was signed in the off-season to provide some stability to the rotation. Although Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon were great for the New York Yankees in 2011, the campaign was each pitcher's first good season in years. The Yankees attempted to trade for Kuroda in the summer of '11, but he declined to leave his Los Angeles Dodgers. After the season however, the Dodgers told him that they would not pursue him in free agency. Thus, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was able to sign Kuroda away from the west coast, where he pitched to a 3.45 ERA and 113 ERA+ in four seasons for two National League West division winners. The 36-year-old got off to a shaky start in April, but since then, he's been as reliable as any starter in the New York rotation. He's pitched at least seven innings in 10 of his previous 12 starts, keeping the Yankees in the game and granting the potent offense an excellent opportunity to score enough runs to take the game.

Over the past week, Kuroda has really been "Charged for the Playoffs," as the name of the campaign suggests. On July 23rd against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, he pitched seven great innings, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk. Though not normally a strikeout pitcher, Kuroda fanned nine Mariners, the second-highest single-game total he's had this year. Kuroda's efforts helped the Yankees to a 4-1 victory in fellow countryman Ichiro Suzuki's first game against his old team. Last night, Kuroda turned in another strong effort as he threw eight innings of two-run ball against the rival Boston Red Sox. He gave up a two-run double to right fielder Ryan Sweeney early on, but even though he gave up seven hits in his outing, his ground-ball tendencies forced the Red Sox batters to hit into four double plays. Kuroda held one of the league's top offenses to just two runs in eight innings. Thanks to Kuroda's recovery, the Yankees came back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning and get him off the hook for the loss. They lost in ten innings, but without Kuroda's fine pitching, they probably would not have even made it to extra innings.

In total, during the past week, Kuroda threw 15 innings and allowed just three runs (a 1.80 ERA). He's lowered his ERA to a 3.28 mark, and his ERA+ of 131 ranks ninth among AL pitchers. If Kuroda keeps up this terrific pitching, the Yankees will certainly gain significant rotation confidence behind ace CC Sabathia in a potential playoff run.