Hiroki Kuroda Shines in Home Opener, New York Yankees Beat Los Angeles Angels 5-0

By Tom Froemming

Hiroki Kuroda eased worried New York Yankees fans in their home opener, picking up his first win in pinstripes as the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-0.

After Michael Pineda was forced to start the year on the disabled list and Kuroda had a poor first start, some impatient fans thought team’s shiny new acquisitions may not provide quite the boost expected. Kuroda’s eight scoreless innings will help quiet any questions, for now at least.

The Japanese right-hander was in a groove all game long, pitching at a quick pace while allowing just seven base runners. He threw 109 pitches, 71 for strikes, and struck out six batters. He looked absolutely unphased by pitching on baseball’s grandest stage.

Getting back to New York looked therapeutic for Alex Rodriguez, who looked like the A-Rod of old instead of simply old A-Rod. He crushed a solo home run to straight center field in the third inning, the 630th of his career, tying him with former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list. The 36-year-old has another 30 A-bombs to hit before he catches the man ranked fourth on the list, Willie Mays. Rodriguez also stole the 307th base of his career.

Everything looked right in Yankee-land, the sun was shining, Frank Sinatra was blaring over the loud speakers and they went on the right side of .500 with their record at 4-3. No one’s really watching records at this point,  but it sure beats the alternative.

Whether it’s deserved or not, manager Joe Girardi will get some credit for tinkering with the lineup. A-Rod hit third today with Robinson Cano in the cleanup spot. Girardi had been hitting lefties Curtis Granderson and Cano back-to-back. That just seems like an obvious poor choice in the first place, but I’m just a guy with a keyboard and a basement, so what do I know.

On the Angels’ side, Ervin Santana has given up 10 earned runs over his first 11.2 innings of the season, Albert Pujols is hitting .222 and they’ve dropped to 2-5. Yes, it’s still too early to get wrapped up into the numbers, but I’ve gotta write about something.

Time to empty out the notebook:

-By all accounts, Jorge Posada is a hell of a human being and all-around great guy, but he had to take some enjoyment out of watching 39-year-old Raul Ibanez go 0-for-4 as the Yankee designated hitter.

-The YES Network crew offered up a few interesting tidbits on Kuroda. He has the lowest ERA of any Japanese pitcher to have made at least 12 starts in Major League Baseball. Also, Kuroda wears No. 18 because it’s considered a label of honor in Japan, as the number is usually worn by the team ace. Other Japanese pitchers who wear No. 18 are Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tsuyoshi Wada and Hisashi Iwakuma. In case you were wondering, Yu Darvish wears No. 11.

-With all the talk of moving fences in at other ballparks, I’d just like to voice my opinion that the Yankees need to move their right field fence back. Granderson hit what looked like a harmless line drive that ended up in the seats. I know the dimensions mirror old Yankee Stadium, but that short porch is a little rediculous.

-While the announcers were introducing Santana, they mentioned that Raul Mondesi is the mayor of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, home of Santana and other current and former major leagures such as Ivan Nova, Francisco Liriano, Jose Guillen and Jose Rijo. Mondesi, the 1994 Rookie of the Year and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, was elected in May 2010 and will serve a six-year term.

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