New York Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda entered Thursday night's game with a sparkling 2.35 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP. He also had yet to give up a single home run. His opponent, the Toronto Blue Jays, have been an early season disappointment with their 9-14 record and are sitting in last place in the A.L. East. For all that, however, the one thing that hasn't deserted them is their prodigious power. Led by J.P. Arencibia and Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays are tied with the Texas Rangers for 2nd in the American League in homeruns.
Coupling that with the notoriously short right field porch in Yankee Stadium didn't diminish the calmness that came from having Kuroda in to face those Toronto sluggers. So it was something of a surprise that, though it was only the 1st inning, Kuroda had already given up 3 runs with two coming on the long ball (Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie). Even the hits that stayed in the park were struck hard. It seemed like it was going to be a short night for Kuroda and a long one for the New York Yankees and their fans.
Five innings later, however, there was Kuroda walking off the mound in line for a win after striking out Colby Rasmus. He had buckled down, turned to his off-speed pitches and kept the Blue Jays off the board.
It was an important show of fortitude by the Yankees #2 starter and gave the home team a chance to get back in the game. The Blue Jays may be second in homeruns in the American League but the Yankees are first. Behind a solo shot from Vernon Wells, a three run shot from Robinson Cano and a solo shot from the continually surprising Francisco Cervelli, they took the lead in the bottom of the third inning and kept it.
The game ended with Mariano Rivera positively slamming the door on the Blue Jays and the Yankees took the first of a four game series against a division rival.
The Blue Jays are undeniably scuffling but it would be unrealistic to expect that trend to continue. There is just too much talent on that team. The A.L. East will likely be a fight to the finish and it will take quite a bit of resiliency to come out on top. On Thursday night, led by Kuroda, the Yankees showed that they just may be up to the challenge.