Yankees turn to Kuroda on Friday the 13thCan the calendar’s freakiest Friday be lucky again for the righty?
That sentiment is especially true for Hiroki Kuroda, who in just six months as a Yankee has made the freakiest of Fridays – one more associated with horror movies and bad luck – into his personal favorite.
It was on the year’s first Friday the 13th, back in January, when Kuroda first became a Yankee. That day, the team actually made a pair of blockbuster pitching acquisitions, as in addition to signing Kuroda, GM Brian Cashman also snagged Michael Pineda from Seattle.
Exactly 91 days later, on Friday, April 13th, Kuroda made his first start at Yankee Stadium…and that’s where Yogi starts to come in.
That game marked the Yankees’ 2012 home opener, and it was a Friday afternoon game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Kuroda took the hill after a rough first start in Tampa, but he was nearly flawless on that balmy spring afternoon in the Bronx for the then 3-3 Bombers; throwing 109 pitches, the Japanese righty endeared himself to the Stadium faithful by tossing a five-hit shutout and striking out six, with his offense helping him earn his first American League win by hanging a six-spot on the Halos’ starter, Ervin Santana.
And now, here we are another 91 days later, getting set to watch Kuroda begin the second half of the Yankees’ slate…against the Angels on a Friday the 13th in the Bronx.
Things couldn’t have changed any more for the Yankees and the Angels as a whole over that second span, of course. That win pushed the Bombers over .500 for the first time (a plateau they wouldn’t permanently stay above until late-May) while dropping the Angels to 2-5 and keeping them in the throws of a surprising early-season slump that left them under .500 until exactly Memorial Day – when, ironically enough, they beat the Yankees to climb back to even at 25-25.
But in the interim, Kuroda has been exactly what Cashman and Joe Girardi had hoped he would be. Sure, his record (8-7) isn’t eye-popping by any means, but Kuroda has taken all of his 17 scheduled turns through the rotation, producing quality starts in 10 of them, and maintains an ERA of 3.50 – just a few hundredths of a point for above his career average entering this year.
Oh, and he’s averaging 6 1/3 innings pitched per start as well, meaning that if he continues on the same path and notches 32 starts, he’ll likely end up with career highs in wins (currently 13, set last year) and innings pitched, a stat in which his benchmark is 202 (also set last year) but his current pace puts him at 203 1/3 for 32 starts.
It won’t be Ervin Santana on the mound against him, but as Kuroda gets set to kick off the back side of the Yankees’ dance card, he has plenty of familiarity to draw on amidst a season seemingly full of team flux.
And as for Friday’s result, well, the Yankees and Kuroda certainly hope that tally lives up to another proverb that Yogi didn’t utter, but likely could identify with.
After all, the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES