- Last Updated: 4:37 PM, July 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:43 AM, July 1, 2012
The Yankees did not send a slew of scouts to watch Matt Garza pitch yesterday in Chicago.
General manager Brian Cashman said there was no special coverage of the Cubs as Garza took the mound against the Astros at Wrigley Field. For now, the Yankees are standing pat with their rotation, despite CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte being sidelined.
“With CC coming back in three weeks, we’re going to go with what we’ve got,’’ Cashman told The Post yesterday. That was before Hiroki Kuroda went out and dominated the White Sox over seven innings in the Yankees’ 4-0 victory in the blast furnace that was Yankee Stadium.
If Sabathia has issues when he comes back from his groin injury, pitching panic will set in for Cashman and the Yankees. Right now, though, they are not going gaga over Garza or anyone else on the trade front.
Cashman doesn’t want Cubs boss Theo Epstein to be the shark who smells blood in the water as he circles the Yankees pitching mound.
Kuroda’s tremendous performance in the heat certainly takes the heat off Cashman, who signed Kuroda to be a No. 2 starter. Kuroda matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts, walking only one and allowing three singles. The deceptive righty was dominant using his slider and splitter to keep hitters off balance.
“He pitched like a No. 1 today,’’ said a veteran scout at the game, who has been following the Yankees all week. Kuroda upped his record to 8-7, but more importantly, dropped his ERA to 3.17 — the lowest ERA of any Yankees starter.
Kuroda gave the Yankees length and got the home run help he needed from Curtis Granderson, Dewayne Wise and Robinson Cano as the Yankees won for the 20th time in June, just the second 20-win month they have had since 2004. Wise is having the week of his life, starting with jumping into the stands to make The Catch That Wasn’t on Tuesday night, coming into pitch and getting the final two outs in the blowout loss Friday night and yesterday matching a career-high with three hits.
After Wipeout Wednesday when Sabathia revealed his groin injury and Pettitte fractured his left leg, the Yankees desperately needed this kind of pitching pick me up. Kuroda is at the head of the class for Yankees starters, with an ERA of 1.65 in his last seven starts. He has not allowed a home run at Yankee Stadium over his last four starts. At home now as a Yankee, Kuroda is having success against left-handed hitters, too.
Kuroda said he is not a strikeout pitcher, but his new-found aggressiveness has made him one. Over his last five starts he is averaging nearly eight strikeouts a game.
“I think I’m able to hit those corners and I’m being aggressive,’’ Kuroda said through an interpreter. “I don’t know if that is the reason that I have the strikeouts, but that’s probably why.’’
Strikeouts and keeping the ball down are the secrets to pitching at Yankee Stadium and Kuroda is following that formula.
“That’s always in my head here,’’ Kuroda said. “You want to keep the ball down, if you get it up a little bit, they could hit it out.’’
At one point, Kuroda retired
15 consecutive White Sox, a team that put up 17 runs in the previous 10 innings against Yankees pitchers.
Kuroda’s best attribute is that he has been able to make adjustments. Though a veteran, he has not been stubborn in his thinking. He came from the National League with a certain mindset and has changed, becoming more aggressive on the mound yet retaining his ability to deceive the hitter through his motion.
“I think the whole game he was in control,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Moving it in and out, working the slider. He just never gave anybody a good pitch to hit in a hitter’s count.’’
That’s pitching like an ace. That’s what the Yankees are going to need from him, now more than ever.