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Hiroki Kuroda battles back from a rough to start to have a quality outing

04/25/2013 11:52 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Kuroda allowed just two base runners after a leadoff homer in the second inning.(AP)
Hiroki Kuroda wasn't fooling anyone early on in Thursday night's game. It was clear to see that Kuroda didn't have any of his pitches and the Blue Jays were feasting on the usually consistent Yankees starter. It looked like it was going to be a long game. Then, something happen. Kuroda battled through and pitched like an ace, giving the Yankees exactly what they needed.

Through the first 1 2/3 innings of Kuroda's outing, the Blue Jays were 6-for-10 with two home runs off of him. In fact, right-handed batters started out 4-for-4 against him with two home runs, after righties were 0-for-14 against him in his last start.

He got the final out of the second striking out Jose Bautista, but the damage was done and the Blue Jays led the Yankees 3-0.

However, that strikeout turned the corner for Kuroda, who still didn't have his sinker the rest of the night. But he found his slider and used one of his best pitches to battle through one of the toughest outings of his Yankees career.

"All I thought about was hang in there," Kuroda said. "Pitch-by-pitch, just hang in there and I'll be able to overcome this adversity."

Starting with the strikeout of Bautista, the Blue Jays could not scratch out another hit against Kuroda, going 0-for-13 the rest of the way against him. Kuroda's effort was rewarded -- a mixture of great offense in the form of a Vernon Wells solo home run, Robinson Cano go-ahead three-run home run and Francisco Cervelli insurance home run and solid defense behind him staked him a 5-3 lead. He left the game in-line for the win in the seventh inning.

"Big home runs by the offense as well as the great defense backing me up, so it felt good," Kuroda said. "Early on all of my pitches weren't there, especially my two seam sinker ball."

"It says a lot because he really didn't have a whole lot tonight," Girardi said. "I don't really think he threw a good slider until the last pitch of the third inning. Then he started finding it a little bit. He didn't have his sinker tonight. He didn't have his good offspeed for the most part. He seemed to find his slider at the end of the third and he found a way to gut it through six innings without giving up any more runs after the second. You can look at performances and you can see a guy dominate and give you a complete game or eight innings and gives up one run, but this might be his best performance of the year."

Kuroda and Cervelli really battled through this game together.

"I think he started to take a little more time and throw pitches down," Cervelli said after the game. "I started calling a lot of breaking balls so he could get to a count where he can throw his best pitch, which is the 2-seam fastball. I always say he's a warrior."

"As a catcher, you've got to find a way to get through it," Girardi said of Cervelli. "You've got to find out what is working and try to get the other stuff to come around."

And that's exactly what happened.

Kuroda had two amazing outings coming into this start, allowing just one earned run in his last 16 1/3 innings pitched against the Orioles and the Blue Jays at Rogers Center.

Many times Yankees fans have seen their ace CC Sabathia have outings like this and still earn the victory. Kuroda proved his worth on Thursday night and showed Yankees fans why there are two aces on this ballclub.

To gut out a win, with no stuff and to get out after out against a good Major League lineup should give Yankees fans confidence that Kuroda has the stuff both physically and mentally to win a ball game when all of his tools aren't there. Kuroda may have needed a little help from his friends, but he earned it.

Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES

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