Kuroda coasts to 12th win on Ichiro's homers
The Red Sox would agree, after being handcuffed by Kuroda on Sunday, that the hurler seems on top of his game. Kuroda pitched eight innings of four-hit ball and Ichiro Suzuki homered twice, leading the Yankees to a 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
"As a pitcher, I try to evolve and be creative every year that I pitch," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I like to believe that I'm evolving and that I'm a better pitcher than I was before."
Kuroda became the third Yankees pitcher this season to hit the 12-win plateau, and you could argue the first-year Bomber has been their best.
Kuroda carried a 16 1/3-inning scoreless streak into the seventh until Adrian Gonzalez broke up the shutout bid with a homer, and he has now held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in each of his last seven starts.
"He's been great," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. "He's been throwing like this for quite some time. Boston has a good offensive team, and ... he's been pretty much in control the entire time."
Kuroda cruised through the night, retiring 13 of the first 14 batters he faced and 19 of his first 21. With the bullpen cranking, Kuroda sailed through a perfect eighth inning to finish at 112 pitches, and closer Rafael Soriano picked up his 31st save in 33 chances.
"This is how good he's been," manager Joe Girardi said of Kuroda. "He has been on a tremendous roll for us. The consistency of his sinker and slider is really the factor. He had a number of ground-ball outs. He mixes in a few splits. Man, he's been good."
The Yankees touched up Josh Beckett for four runs in six innings, including Ichiro's first multihomer game in pinstripes. The speedster slugged solo blasts into the right-field seats in the fourth and sixth innings, earning his first Yankee Stadium curtain call, which he said "embarrassed" him.
Ichiro had declined to answer a Yankee Stadium curtain call after his 100th career homer on July 31, his first with the Yankees, but this time he emerged from the dugout whirling his helmet and offering a graceful bow between pitches to Casey McGehee.
"I really didn't know how the fans were going to react, but I'm so happy that they're behind me," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "It's one of the special moments of my career, to have the support of the fans. Obviously, I still need to be ready and play well in the future, and that's what I want to continue to do."
The contest marked Ichiro's seventh career multihomer game, two of which have come at Yankee Stadium -- also on Aug. 21, 2010, with the Mariners. The display rekindled a question that has been pondered aloud by many: If Ichiro wanted to hit for more power, could he?
"I think he's probably hit to his ballpark all those years," Girardi said. "Seattle plays extremely large. If he had been a Yankee for a number of years, who knows how many home runs he might have hit? We know that there's power there."
Ichiro batted .526 (10-for-19) on the homestand and has, as the Yankees hoped, seemed reinvigorated by parachuting into a playoff atmosphere.
"Everybody knows how good of a hitter he is," Jeter said. "I don't care what the scoreboard or statistics say. We've played against Ichiro enough, and he's tough to pitch to. He hits the ball to left field, center field, right field. He's got speed. He showed us today he can hit some home runs when he wants to."
New York also touched Beckett with Curtis Granderson's first-inning RBI double, scoring Jeter, and a third-inning wild pitch squirted away from catcher Ryan Lavarnway to permit Jeter to race home with the Yankees' second run.
"I thought Josh had some of the best stuff that he's had in a while tonight," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He just had trouble with two hitters, Jeter and Ichiro. They kind of did him in."
Kuroda and Ichiro seemed to overshadow Jeter's contributions on this night, not that the shortstop was complaining. Recording his 50th multihit game of the year, Jeter has hit safely in 14 of 15 games and is batting .373 (25-for-67) over that stretch.
"I just try to stay back, get good pitches, hit them and hope they find some holes, which I've been fortunate lately," Jeter said. "I feel pretty good, but you want it to continue. We've got a long way to go."