NEW YORK (AP)—After a calamitous couple of days for the Yankees pitching staff, Hiroki Kuroda provided some needed calm.
All he had to do was be himself.
His start Saturday was as good as any he’s had since an unimpressive first two months. The right-hander struck out 11 in seven innings to help New York end Chicago’s winning streak at four games by beating the White Sox 4-0.
The strikeouts tied a career high for Kuroda, and his teammates backed him with three home runs. A day after outfielder Dewayne Wise was perfect in his pro pitching debut during a mop-up role, he was perfect at the plate. He had three hits and homered, with Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano also connecting.
New York’s pitching situation has been fraught since Wednesday, when the Yankees placed CC Sabathia on the disabled list with a strained groin, and lost Andy Pettitte for two months when he was hit in the lower left fibula by a batted ball, breaking the bone at the ankle.
“These are great pitchers that we’re missing, and I thought we could have a really negative effect, but the only thing I can do on the mound is to pitch my game,” Kuroda said through a translator.
Kuroda (8-7) pitched three-hit ball for seven innings and walked one in the matchup of AL division leaders.
“Sinker, slider, splitter for the most part,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He just really locked in to the strike zone and started locating.”
Jake Peavy (6-5) struck out 11 without a walk in his fourth complete game this year.
The Yankees had another homer happy day in the heat, but far more gratifying to them must have been Kuroda’s performance.
Since they lost their ace and their key veteran left-hander, Ivan Nova gave the Yankees a good start in a game the bullpen lost Thursday and rookie Adam Warren couldn’t get out of the third inning on Friday night in a game that the bullpen made even worse. Wise had to finish off the 14-7 loss by getting the last two outs.
Kuroda began the game by allowing a single to Alejandro De Aza, who was thrown out trying to steal second. Then he allowed a two-out walk and single. After that, he retired 15 straight batters after Paul Konerko’s two-out single in the first inning, ending his streak by hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch when there were two outs in the sixth. The plunking came after Derek Jeter had been hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fifth following Wise’s homer.
“I was trying to be too careful, too perfect,” Kuroda said. “Now I try to be as aggressive as possible.”
He was talking about Saturday, but he could have been talking about his acclimation to the American League. In his last seven starts he’s 5-1 with 46 strikeouts against 11 walks in his last seven starts and a 1.65 ERA.
“He looked pretty good today for sure,” said Chicago’s Gordon Beckham, who went 0 for 3. “He had a lot of movement on his ball.”
Chicago has still won six of eight during a run that helped it overtake Cleveland for the AL Central lead. The White Sox fell to 23-15 on the road, which still has them only a half-game behind the Yankees for best in the AL.
Peavy was taken deep to right three times, all by left-handed hitters.
“On the plate, just don’t let them pull the ball in this ballpark,” Peavy said. “You’ve got to keep the ball out of the air that way. The ball gets in the air … you’ve got no chance.
“Obviously that happened three times.”
Granderson hit one out in the first, Wise’s homer came in the fifth and Cano led off the sixth with a towering first-pitch drive. The Yankees began the day with what was already a major league-best 119 home runs.
Wise also hit an RBI double in the second and tied a career high with three hits.
“He’s swinging the bat real well and we like the way he’s swinging the bat,” Girardi said. “He even got two outs last night for us, so he’s kind of doing everything for us.”
NOTES: White Sox RHP Gavin Floyd is set to face Yankees righty Phil Hughes in Sunday’s game, which will be Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium. … Gametime temperature was 93 degrees. … Chicago returns home after Sunday’s series finale for an off day before facing Texas and Toronto for six games going into the All-Star break. The Yankees wrap up before the break with three games at Tampa Bay and a four-game set in Boston that includes a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, July 7. Kuroda also fanned 11 in 2008 vs. the Cubs, when he was with the Dodgers.
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