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Yankees' pitching starting to come around

05/11/2012 11:01 PM ET
By Travis Goldman

CC Sabathia has continued to be the anchor of the Yankees' rotation in 2012.(AP)

While the Yankees’ starting rotation, projected to be a strength this season, has instead pitched to a 5.02 ERA, there have been signs of a turnaround. Since May 2, no Yankees starter has allowed more than four earned runs. Thursday night, CC Sabathia was brilliant in allowing two unearned runs and striking out 10 Rays over eight innings to move to 5-0 with a 3.51 ERA. Sabathia’s performance that gave the Yanks a series win over their AL East rivals is one of a collection of solid outings, despite a few hiccups to begin the season.

Hiroki Kuroda’s gem against the Angels on April 13 still stands as the Yankees’ best-pitched game of the season. The Japanese right-hander tossed eight shutout innings in a 5-0 win. Kuroda struck out six, allowed just seven baserunners and all of the five hits he allowed were singles.

Kuroda featured a five-pitch arsenal (four-seamer, sinker, slider, curveball and splitter), throwing 71 of 109 pitches for strikes (65%). His best pitch that day was the sinker – which averaged 92 MPH – that he threw 37 times, 29 for strikes (78%).

Sabathia allowed only five baserunners (four hits and a walk) and struck out seven in 7.1 innings pitched on April 17. The reason Minnesota scored three runs is because they hit an unheard of .667 with RISP (2-3). Sabathia threw 73 of 112 pitches for strikes (60%), so he wasn’t that efficient, but he settled down in the latter innings, tossing just 42 pitches in his last 4.1 frames.

The Yankees’ ace also delivered on April 29 when he held the power-packed Tigers to two runs in eight innings of a 6-2 win while holding him hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position. Sabathia was more economical with his pitches (106) and he relied heavily on his fastball and slider (95 times combined); his changeup, maybe his prime asset against righties, was thrown just five times. His slider was his ultimate weapon by forcing eight swings and misses.

Kuroda followed suit with a 2-1 win over the Orioles April 30 at Yankee Stadium by allowing a run in seven innings despite allowing 13 fly balls against six grounders, normally his area of strength. He was extremely efficient, but was pulled after just 87 pitches because he had trouble in the last frame. He allowed a single, hit a batter, and threw a wild pitch, and would’ve been credited with another until Nick Markakis was tagged out when Russell Martin recovered and threw to Kuroda covering home plate.

Last Friday in Kansas City, Sabathia saved an overworked bullpen by giving up two runs – none after the first -- over eight solid innings. He walked none and struck out five, inducing 15 grounders. His fastball averaged more than 93 MPH, but his best pitch was the changeup, that he only used eight times. Why? Because he threw it for a called or swinging strike every single time.

We finally come to Ivan Nova.. His best start came Tuesday night in the Yankees’ 5-3 series-opening win against the Rays. Nova outpitched James Shields with seven innings of two-run ball and used a devastating slider to strike out eight to tie a season-high.

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