In a year of ups and downs for the New York Yankees, Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the very few ups. While C.C. Sabathia continues to find himself on the mound and Andy Pettitte tries to shake being the league’s oldest starter at 41-years old, Kuroda was working his name into the AL Cy Young conversation.
But over the past couple of weeks, Kuroda has hit a wall, and it seems that hitters are now having no trouble finding a way to put the ball over that wall off of him.
Ever since tossing eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels on August 12 and lowering his ERA to 2.33, Kuroda has been, well, awful — just flat out awful. And it’s starting to become more concerning than the struggling Sabathia.
August 17 against the Boston Red Sox is when the fall began, when Kuroda served up a career-high 11 hits, giving up five runs for the first time in 14 starts in a 6-1 Yankees loss. A week later, Kuroda entered his start against the Tampa Bay Rays with a streak of 56 innings without giving up a home run, but the streak was quickly broken as Tampa shelled him for four long balls in a 7-2 loss.
Then came Wednesday night’s outing against the last place Toronto Blue Jays — who Kuroda tossed eight shutout innings against on May 17. A night after the Yanks tagged J.A. Happ for four runs in the first inning, the Jays came out to do the same, pounding out a four-run first inning off Kuroda.
An inning later, Edwin Encarnacion jacked a two-run home run off Kuroda to make it a 6-0 game. The Jays were not being fooled by anything Kuroda was throwing at them.
With these three straight shaky outings, the questions have now begun to arise about whether the Yankees, who need every win they can get in order to make the playoffs, should be worried about the way Kuroda has been pitching lately.
At a time like this, where every game matters, yeah, the Yankees should be concerned with Kuroda practically giving games away. But you have to remember this: he’s 38-years-old, and could reach 200 innings of work this season. With his age, the wear and tear of a long season might be getting to him.
It’s a fact that very few pitchers go through a season without hitting a road bump or two, and with the dominating way Kuroda had been pitching in the weeks leading us to this sudden collapse, if was only a matter of time before he cracked.
As the calendar flips from August to September, Kuroda is likely to take the mound about five more time for the Yankees; and if anything, his poor performance lately is nothing to be worried about. We’ve seen it all season — Kuroda is a pro, and a good one for what it’s worth. He should have no trouble fixing the problem before it gets completely out of control.
Gavin Ewbank is a Yankees columnist for Rant Sports. Follow @GavinEwbank2013 for more Yankees talk.