Hiroki Kuroda is that pitcher mentioned in the first paragraph. There are two nice things about his place on the mound today. The first is that he has been very good at home. He is 9-5 at the ballpark in the Bronx with a 2.38 ERA and a WHIP of only 0.950. His strikeout to walk rate at home is a very impressive 3.9 to one. That will due nicely. Combine that with the fact that he is not only pitching at home, but is pitching during the day. Kuroda has made six day game starts and is 4-1 in those starts with a minuscule ERA of 0.84 and a WHIP of 0.891. His strikeout to walk ratio in those day games is 6.80. Very nice.
The only dark cloud to this rosy picture is that his one loss in the daytime was to these same Tampa Bay Rays on the second day of the season. And that game was at home. Kuroda has pitched against the Rays twice this season, once at home in that loss mentioned and once in St. Pete, where he got the win despite allowing eleven base runners and four runs in six innings of work. But still, if you are heading into a rubber game of a series against a team you have to beat, having Kuroda on the mound at home and during the day is a comforting scenario.
Like Kuroda, Matt Moore has one win and one loss against the Yankees. He beat the Yankees in St Pete back on July 2. He was not dominating, but he got the job done. The Yankees beat him–again down in St. Pete–on September 5. In two appearances against the Yankees, Moore has allowed 21 base runners in 13.1 innings of work with twelve strikeouts and four walks. Moore has lost three straight decisions and the Rays have lost in the last four games he has started. Again, a comforting scenario. Look for the Yankees to try to drive up his pitch count early.
Another boost has been the addition of Eduardo Nunez to the lineup against left-handed pitchers. The Yankees were looking terrible against lefty-pitches from the middle of the season until lately. Andruw Jones and Jayson Nix in those lineups were flagging badly. Nunez spruces that up and has been great in the line up since Derek Jeter came up lame. Hopefully, Girardi will have Nunez in the lineup again today.
As for the Rays, they have activated Sean Rodriguez from the disabled list. That would not be so newsworthy by itself as Rodriguez is having an awful year at the plate. But the only team Rodriguez has hit this season? That’s right, the Yankees. It will be interesting to see if Joe Maddon puts Rodriguez at second in place of the shaky Elliot Johnson.
All in all, the Yankees have things lined up nicely. Their best pitcher is on the mound in a situation where he normally excels. The Yankees are facing a young pitcher that they can get to on most days. A win would push the Rays further back in the standings and maintain their lead against the Orioles who face a tough opponent using a less than satisfactory starting pitcher. Yes, the Yankees are set up nicely today. All they have to do is win. And that is always the hard part, isn’t it?