Hiroki Kuroda’s best start so far this season helped the Yankees (17-15) defeat the Angels in Anaheim 4-3 on Tuesday night. He resembled the pitcher that he was last season that made him a borderline All-Star as he pitched 7.2 innings, gave up five hits and no walks, only one earned run and struck out a season-high eight batters.
Kuroda, who is an even more important pitcher for the Yankees right now since Ivan Nova is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda will miss three-four more weeks with a strained back muscle, had his first start of the season where he pitched into the seventh inning. His dominating start lowered his season ERA from 5.14 to 4.43, and Kuroda was impressively able to rebound from his start against the Angels two weeks ago where he allowed six earned runs and two homers in 4.2 innings pitched.
Joe Girardi was impressed by Kuroda and thought that his slider and sinker were effective. “His slider was really good again,” Girardi said. “I thought his sinker was excellent again tonight. I’ve been saying that once he gets his slider going, we’ll see the Kuroda that we’re used to seeing, and he had it tonight.”
Kuroda, who allowed one earned run but three runs overall, was not able to get the win because the run that Shawn Kelley allowed with two outs in the eighth was charged to him. Pujols’s single that drove home Mike Trout tied the score at three. Trout’s third triple of his season sent him to third, and it was only his third hit in his last 20 at-bats.
Brian Roberts hit a 390-foot homer to right with two outs in the top of the 9th off of Ernesto Frieri to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead that would end up winning the game for the Bronx Bombers. It was Roberts’s first homer of the season. In his past six games, Roberts, who came over to the Yankees after being injured during most of the past four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, is hitting .348 to push his overall average up to a more respectable .250.
In the fifth inning, Roberts drove in the first run of the game for the Yankees as his single to center scored Yangervis Solarte. In the eighth inning, Alfonso Soriano gave the team a temporary one run lead because his single to left scored Carlos Beltran. Solarte and Roberts were the only Yankees to record two hits.
David Robertson was able to retire the Angels in order in the ninth for his fifth save in as many chances. Robertson has not had any trouble replacing Mariano Rivera so far this season.
Derek Jeter is now the only regular on the team without a home run. Ichiro Suzuki also has not hit a ball out of the park yet, but he is a part-time outfielder and does not have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.
The Yankees will play the Angels at 10:05 p.m. EST on Wednesday to try to win the series before starting a three-game set in Milwaukee against the Brewers.
On Tuesday, December 17, the Yankees made two signings in Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton that have the potential to fill areas of need. The Yankees have agreed to a low risk high reward $2 million, one-year deal with Roberts, who is going into his 14th season.
Since the Yankees lost the ineffective Joba Chamberlain to the Detroit Tigers and the reliable Boone Logan to a three-year contract with the Colorado Rockies, the Yankees needed to acquire another arm for their bullpen. They signed Matt Thornton to a two-year, $7 million contract that was first reported by Jack Curry. Thornton is the second player that the Yankees have signed this offseason who has previously played for the Boston Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury, their new $153 million center fielder, played the first seven seasons of his career in Boston.
Thornton is coming off a season where he had a 3.74 ERA while appearing in 40 games for the Chicago White Sox and 20 games for the Red Sox. He had his highest ERA and WHIP since (3.74/1.43) his outlier season of 2007 when he had a 4.79 ERA and 1.50 WHIP at age 30 (Walks and Hits divided by Innings Pitched). Thornton, from 2008-2010, while playing for the White Sox never had an ERA above 2.74 or a WHIP above 1.07. He has also averaged better than a strikeout per inning for his career as he has 582 strikeouts in 568.1 innings.
The 37-year-old lefty from Michigan is showing signs of declining with age based on his 2013 season, but when you compare his stats from last year to Logan’s he is not really that much of a downgrade. Logan had a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings with 50 strikeouts and Thornton who pitched better in the second half last season with Boston had a 3.74 ERA in 43.1 innings and 30 strikeouts. However, Thornton is much more deserving of his 3.5 million annual salary than Logan is with his 5.5 million annual salary.
If Thornton could pitch like he did in 2012, when he had a 3.46 ERA, pitched 65 innings in 74 games while striking out 53 batters and only walking 17, then he would be a steal. He will be the primary lefty in the bullpen. Another potentially useful lefty that the Yankees have is Ceasar Cabral. The Yankees could use one more reliever with the ability to close since right now, in addition to Thornton, they have Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne and Cabral to combine with David Robertson in the bullpen.
In regards to Brian Roberts, the whole story with him is if he can stay healthy. He has spent his whole career as a productive second basemen for the Baltimore Orioles, when not on the disabled list. In the past four seasons, he has only played in a combined 192 games. Between 2010 and 2013, Roberts missed a substantial amount of games due to an abdominal strain, a concussion, recovery from the concussion the following season, right hip surgery and right hamstring surgery. However, in 2009, which was his last healthy season, he had a .283 average, 56 doubles, 16 homers, 79 Runs Batted In and 30 steals. Those are great numbers that prove that he can help a team in a variety of ways.
If Roberts can stay healthy he would form a formidable second base combination with Kelly Johnson, who was signed a few weeks ago. Johnson has hit 16 homers in each of the last two seasons, but is not known for being nearly as reliable defensively as Roberts is. Roberts is known for being a defensive player and an offensive catalyst. He played well to conclude the 2013 campaign since in his final 22 at-bats he hit .364 with two homers and five runs scored.
A benefit to signing Roberts and Thornton to relatively cheap contracts, and not getting one of the more expensive second basemen like Omar Infante, is that the Yankees will have more money available to potentially sign Masahiro Tanaka.
Multiple Japanese newspapers are now reporting that Tanaka will not actually be posted. The Rakuten Golden Eagles, who own his rights until 2015, are now not going to permit major league teams to bid for him. The Yankees will likely now become more interested in Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. They haven’t been interest in them so far based on the salaries that they would command. They could still trade Brett Gardner, even though they have said they don’t want to trade Gardner, or Ichiro Suzuki for a starting pitcher.