Cano, Kuroda lead Yankees past Tribe
The Yankees' formula for winning over their last 30 games has been getting solid contributions from everyone on the team. When one facet of the well-oiled machine hasn't been working, then the other parts have been picking them up. The Yankees are 23-7 over that 30 game stretch and have gone from 21-21 on the season to 44-28. They've done this behind great starting pitching, a phenominal bullpen, a powerful lineup heating up with the weather, tight defense and a solid bench.
All of the parts may not all be working at the same time, but they certainly were all effective in the team's 7-1 victory in the series opener against the suddenly surging Cleveland Indians. Hiroki Kuroda was brilliant once again and is now 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA over his last six starts after beginning the season 3-6 with a 4.56 ERA. He went seven strong, allowing only the one earned run, giving up just five hits, walking only two and striking out seven. The difference is that he has been more aggressive attacking the zone, while showing terrific command with all of his pitches. On Monday evening, his fastball, slider and splitter were almost unhittable.
“I didn't really have that pitch in the bullpen, but I saw a lot of people swinging at that from the beginning of the game,” Kuroda said through his interpreter Kenji Nimura after the game of his devasting splitter.
Kuroda once again had the run support as the Yankees' bats shined early and often. The team scored two runs in each of the first three innings and scored the seventh and final run in the sixth inning for good measure.
“I try to take the same approach no matter what kind of game it is, but you can be a little bit aggressive,” Kuroda said of the early support he received.
That aggressive approach allowed him to settle in and just continue to pound the zone. He has now struck out 35 batters in his last six starts after striking out just 34 in his first nine starts of the season.
The offense came from none other than the hotter than hot Robinson Cano, who blasted his sixth home run in the last eight games and now has 17 on the season. Dewayne Wise also made the most of his rare start in center field as Joe Girardi revealed before the game that Curtis Granderson would not start in center for the first time all season, serving as the DH. Coming off the bench, Wise went 2-for-3, with a home run, a triple and three RBIs.
“I was aware that Curtis hasn't had a day off all year and I was hoping that at some point that I could get a start in center and today I did and had a good game,” Wise said of his opportunity.
Derek Jeter played a phenominal defensive game at short flashing the leather and Nick Swisher put on a show both in the field and at the plate as he connected on his 12th home run, which was also his second in as many nights.
After all of this, the Yankees' bullpen came in and shut the door on the Indians as Clay Rapada and Freddy Garcia threw two scoreless innings to put the Bombers back to 16-games over .500. This win marked everything that has been going right for the first-place Yankees. Interleague is now over and they are riding the momentum to the All-Star break, which with this continued hot play could distance themselves even more against their closest rivals, setting themselves up for a great second half.
The formula and blueprint to winning is right there, now it's just about continued execution.