Hiroki Kuroda’s gem helped the Yankees sweep the Cincinnati Reds

Hiroki Kuroda pitching at Yankee Stadium

Hiroki Kuroda pitching at Yankee Stadium

The 3-2 win by the Yankees on Sunday at Yankee Stadium finished of a three-game sweep against the Cincinnati Reds. After the sweep, the Yankees are now only three games behind the Baltimore Orioles for first place and 1.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card. The Bronx Bombers won with a walk-off bloop single by Brian McCann, which was followed by a Gatorade shower by Brett Gardner.

Their pitching was solid in all three games, and Sunday’s game was highlighted by Hiroki Kuroda not allowing an earned run in 6.2 innings. He struck out six, allowed two walks and only three hits. His unearned run came in the fifth inning as Zach Cozart scored on Skip Schumaker double after Brian Roberts made an error to begin the inning. Kuroda has really stepped while 80 percent of the opening-day rotation is on the disabled list.

Kuroda, who is in his third season with the Yankees, has pitched much better since the beginning of June. His 3.88 ERA is now the lowest it has been since the beginning of April, and this is because he has allowed three runs or less in seven of his nine starts going back to June 3. In July, Kuroda has pitched 6.2 innings or more in three of his four starts and has allowed a dominating two runs or less in those three starts. With Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene, David Phelps and Kuroda, the Yankees now have four starters pitching well.

Kuroda did a wonderful job today,” Joe Girardi said. “To give us almost seven innings, and he gave up the one unearned run, he was outstanding.”

A key play in the third inning was Jacoby Ellsbury’s great diving catch on a ball hit to shallow center to end the inning and prevent Frazier from getting an RBI since there was a runner on second.

These three wins have all been at home and that is important because the Yankees had struggled at Yankee Stadium before the All-Star break. Before the break their home record was 18-23 and it is now 21-23. Thirty-seven of their final 64 games come in the Bronx, which means that the weekend’s success needs to continue the next few months.

“If we are going to get to the playoffs, we’re going to have to win at home because we have so many games (here),” Joe Girardi said after the game. “To be able to start of this way against a team that has been playing well, that is fighting for their division as well, I think was very important. We did a good job of getting the leads in most games and keeping the lead.”

The Yankees scored for the first time in the fifth inning as two RBI singles gave them a 2-1 lead. Derek Jeter’s single to right scored Kelly Johnson with one out and then Ellsbury’s single to right scored Brett Gardner. Johnson and Gardner both walked earlier in the inning. Ellsbury steal of second in the fifth was his 17th of the season, which is the fourth highest in Major League Baseball.

All-Star Dellin Betances pitched 1.1 scoreless innings before giving up a solo home run to the powerful Todd Frazier. The Toms River, New Jersey product has 20 homers and was the runner up in the Home Run Derby. It was surprising that Frazier hit this homer because it was the first homer that Betances gave up since May 17. Betances had also previously held righties hitless in 24 at-bats.  This was only the third earned run that Betances had allowed in his last 15 appearances.

To set up McCann’s game-winning single, Ellsbury hit a clutch single off of the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. He consistently throws his fastball in the upper 90s and has once thrown a 105 MPH fastball, which is the fastest recorded pitch in a game. Girardi was impressed with Ellsbury’s at bat. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “A guy that is throwing 100 MPH, plus, to be able to stay in there, get the count in your favor, and foul off some tough pitches.”

Ellsbury was able to steal his second base and then advance to third on a wild pitch by Chapman. McCann was able to get his on a fly ball that went about 120-feet into the outfield grass because the infield was playing in and Frazier was playing first base instead of his normal third base position. However, in this case, a single that fell in between three fielders was just as good as a home run.

The Yankees are now 13-7 in inter-league play and they held the Reds to an inept 1-22 with runners in scoring position in the series. The Yankees will now continue their 10-game home-stand with a four-game series against the last place Texas Rangers. Monday’s 7:05 game will be a matchup between Shane Greene, who will be making his fourth start for the Yankees, and the struggling Miles Mikolas.

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