(#PowerSwing. Courtesy of the AP)
The recent offensive turnaround may or may not have been triggered by a long run of games against right-handed pitchers, which gave Joe the opportunity to establish some consistency in his lineup cards. The offense was held relatively in check in Saturday afternoon's loss and got juggled against lefty Wei-Yin Chen in last night's series finale. Ben Francisco was back in the DH spot, Brennan Boesch got the start in right field over Ichiro, and Joe put Vernon Wells in the 2-spot in the lineup to bump Robbie and Youkilis back down to their regular spots. How did it all work out? Just well enough to win with the way Hiroki was dealing.
- Both teams were swinging early and often through 2 innings, helping to keep the game scoreless and Hiroki Kuroda's pitch count down. He was working the sinker and splitter, and looked to have good command of both pitches early.
- Kuroda gave up a hit here and there, but he was fully in control through 5. He ended the 3rd with a perfectly-induced double play ball and got big strikeouts to finish off the 4th and 5th.
- Boesch was the Yankee offense early, with 2 singles in his first 2 at-bats. He came around to score on a single and a pair of sac flies by Overbay and Jayson Nix to smallball the first run onto the scoreboard.
- In a classic "who woulda thunk it?" moment, the inning went from a small victory to a big one when Brett Gardner took the first pitch he saw in his 2-out AB and hit it off the upper deck section of the foul pole in right for a 2-run homer and a 3-0 Yankee lead.
- 3 runs was all Kuroda would need as he breezed through the next 2 innings with more sliders and only 1 baserunner, and then worked around a pair of errors in the 8th and 9th to close out his own shutout.
- Mo was up in the 'pen in the 9th but was never needed. Kuroda deserved to get the chance to finish the game and Joe let him do it.
- Kuroda: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Just a vintage Kuroda performance. He commanded all his pitches down in the zone, threw strike 1 all night and worked from ahead in the count, and got a ton of groundball outs, 18 to be exact. He looked terrific and totally recovered from his bruised finger.
- Gardner: 1-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI, 3 LOB. He only had 1 hit, but it was a helluva hit and was the minimal insurance that Kuroda needed.
- Cano, Youkilis, Francisco: Combined 0-11, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 LOB. Not much from the 3-5 spots in the batting order, which could be a continued problem against LHP.
The Yanks get a scheduled off-day tomorrow as they wait for the Diamondbacks to travel cross country for their first interleague series of the year. That series will start on Tuesday night with Ivan Nova and Brandon McCarthy scheduled to start.