Hiroki Kuroda Ends April on a High Note

Given the pitching, the first month went well for the Yankees

April was a month filled with pitching performances that created more than a little fear about what the Yankees are going to be able to accomplish this season.

Freddy Garcia was the worst, Michael Pineda was the most disappointing and Phil Hughes was a runner-up on both fronts. Ivan Nova wasn't quite as bad, but he didn't do all that much to make you feel like this group of pitchers was going to be able to hold up over the long haul.

And yet the Yankees were 12-9 heading into the final game of the month despite playing a schedule that wasn't exactly light on top-flight competition. All of the doom and gloom on the mound raises serious concerns about the team, but the fact that it didn't actually get in the way of the team winding up with a winning record is something to build off as the season moves into its second month.

So is Hiroki Kuroda's start on Monday night. Kuroda allowed just six baserunners over seven innings that saw the Orioles put together just two serious scoring chances.

It wasn't the best performance you'll ever see as the Orioles hit a lot of line drives that wound up in Yankee gloves, but it was enough to carry the team forward while the offense went in circles. The Yankees are going to need performances like that over the course of the season, just as they are going to need games like the Yankees' 15-run comeback after Garcia messed the bed in Boston.

The first led to a sacrifice fly and the second got wiped out on a strong defensive play by Kuroda. With runners on second and third with two out in the seventh, a third strike got away from Russell Martin and Nick Markakis started toward the plate.

Kuroda beat him there, though, and so did Martin's throw. That left the score 2-1 and it was the academic David Robertson/Mariano Rivera duo from there to close things out.

Kuroda's first month as a Yankee featured gems (Monday night and the home opener against the Angels) and a couple of unsuccessful starts, but the total result was more encouraging than anything else the Yankees got from pitchers not named CC Sabathia. Kuroda's stuff can obviously work in the American League and it is clear that the team needs him to fill that second spot in the rotation if they are going to build on a 13-9 start in what figures to be a furious fight for a playoff spot.

There are worse ways to spend a month than weathering storms and finding out your free agent starter is up to the task, even if it didn't feel that way for much of April.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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