Postgame notebook: Hiroki Kuroda delivers against former team in opener of doubleheader
The Yankees got 6.2 solid innings from Hiroki Kuroda, who only got himself into one jam in the first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh.
Those were the only two innings where Kuroda allowed multiple baserunners, and in the fourth, he was able to escape a second-and-third, no-out situation thanks to a line drive off the bat of Andre Ethier that ended up as a 1-5 double play.
"I saw the ball coming at me and was able to make the play," Kuroda said through his interpreter. "I saw the runner (at third) and my thought was to get the next out."
In the seventh, with the Yankees leading 3-0, Kuroda allowed two singles, a walk, and a sac fly before Jerry Hairston Jr.'s RBI single made it 3-2 and chased him, but manager Joe Girardi had high praise for the efforts of his veteran righty.
"He just made some mistakes; he walked a guy and got in some longer counts," manager Joe Girardi said, "but he threw the ball well, he really did. As much as it's not a lot of his ex-teammates, I'm sure he felt a little something with the matchup today, but he pitched extremely well."
Shawn Kelley got the final out of the seventh, and in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees extended their lead thanks to a bizarre play that saw Dodgers pitcher Ronald Belisario earn both a fielding and a throwing error on the same play to allow one run to score and the Yankees to really kick-start a one-out rally.
"That's one of the stranger ones I've seen, but we really caught a big break because it let us open up the inning," Girardi said. "It was big; I think at the time it was 4-2, and they ended up scoring two more runs.
That cushion allowed the Yankees to overcome a bullpen struggle in the eighth, one that saw Preston Claiborne give up a double and a two-run homer and David Robertson walk two batters before escaping a jam; they also got a big defensive play from Ichiro Suzuki in-between, as he raced back to snare a hard hit smash by Adrian Gonzalez before crashing into the wall.
"I knew that it wasn't a home run, it cut in on him a little bit and he got a little jammed, the tough part was which way do I turn, because it was right over my head."
And, finally, it was Sandman time in the ninth, as Mariano Rivera retired the side on 10 pitches, the final out coming with a strikeout of rookie phenom Yasiel Puig.
"He hits the ball hard, he's got a very good arm, and he's aggressive…he's a good looking young player," Girardi said of Puig, before praising the back-end tag team of Houdini and the Sandman. "We're really fortunate, (Robertson and Rivera) is a combination that has been really good for a while here, and you do feel fortunate when you have guys who lock down games. Those are the tougher ones to recover from - when you have a lead and let it slip away late - and those guys have done a really good job for us."
The save gave Rivera his 29th straight conversion in interleague play and the team's 10th opening game win in 15 doubleheaders in the Girardi era. The Yankees are just 4-5 in the back end of those double-dips so far, but will look for the sweep behind Phil Hughes in Wednesday's nightcap.
Other notes from Game 1:
-Lyle Overbay had a big double in the first inning to score the Yankees' first two runs, and he said his approach was as simple as get a good pitch to hit: "I just wanted to get something to drive; David did a good job of getting the guys over, and I was looking to put something into the outfield. He left a pitch middle in; I was late on the second pitch and had a feeling he might come back with it."
Overbay also said he hasn't really changed his approach against lefties now that he's getting more consistent playing time again: "It's more getting a good pitch to hit. When I was struggling a bit I was swinging at anything and everything, so it's being more patient, getting a good pitch to hit and giving yourself a chance. … I just want to take advantage and help this team win. I don't have anything else to prove, so when opportunity comes about I'm putting my best effort forward."
-Ichiro was the star of the day, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored, as well as that stellar defensive play. He started to heat up at the end of the West Coast swing, and while both he and Girardi said there's no difference in his approach - with the skipper saying "he sometimes just gets really, really hot" - Ichiro had a semi-humorous take on why that may have happened in the Pacific time zone: "When I do go to the West Coast, I don't lose as much weight because there's less humidity."
-One player who continues to struggle is Vernon Wells, He was 0-for-4 and is now 6-for-53 (.113) in June, but Girardi is confident that will break soon: "As I said it's timing. He's had some better at-bats against lefties, and he had an important RBI the other day in Anaheim. He'll figure it out.
Wells' last at-bat was the wacky two-error play for Belisario, and the skipper joked when asked if that might get Wells going that "I don't think you're going to gain much confidence from that."
Overbay did say, however, that the surge that resulted was "what we needed to do; we haven't capitalized on mistakes lately, so it was kind of nice to be able to do that."
-Hiroki Kuroda said that while he thought about facing his old team a little bit before the game, he forgot about the matchup once the game started - but his opponent, Hyun-Jin Ryu, didn't: "Obviously the Yankees are a storied franchise, so it was an honor."
-Last word goes to Girardi, regarding the Puig-Rivera matchup and the Cuban phenom in general: "I'm sure Puig has heard about Mo for a long, long time, and probably wanted to play in the Majors for a long time, and hoped he would see him one day. He got to see him, and it was a good matchup; Mo got behind him 2-0, but did what he does and got him out. … (Puig) is an aggressive young player that has a lot of tools, and there's an awful lot to like about this kid."