Kuroda making case for All-Star consideration

The All-Star Game will be at Citi Field in a couple of months, and there has been a lot of talk in Flushing about Matt Harvey, the Mets’ impressive rookie, perhaps getting the nod as the starting pitcher for the National League. Not to take any thunder away from Harvey, but it may not be a bad idea if the American League gave serious consideration to the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda as its starter.

Oh, sure, it’s far too early to get into that discussion. One thing is certain: when that topic does become heated, figure Kuroda to be in the middle of it, right up there with Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz, Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and the other All-Star starter contenders.

Say what you want about the Blue Jays’ 17-25 start, but the Toronto lineup is still formidable. Yet Kuroda mowed through it seemingly without breaking a sweat.

“He had all three of his pitches going – fastball, slider, splitter,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He pretty much gave the bullpen the night off. He has been doing that for us all season.”

The first inning was an indication that it might be a special night for Kuroda. Melky Cabrera led off the game with a double. Kuroda then struck out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and got the third out by gloving a searing line drive by J.P. Arencibia.

“I felt good after those first two strikeouts,” Kuroda said.

Asked how he was able to catch Arencibia’s dart, Kuroda said, “I don’t know.”

After Melky’s hit, Kuroda got 19 consecutive outs before yielding a second hit, Encarnacion’s one-out single in the seventh. Kuroda walked Muenori Kawasaki in the third inning but picked him off. The righthander had five strikeouts in his eight innings, and it was hard to believe that 41 of his 109 pitches were called balls.

Kuroda improved his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.99, clearly the best of each in the rotation. He has been a one-man gang against Toronto with 12 consecutive scoreless innings against the Jays. Opponents are hitless in their past 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Kuroda and 2-for-30 for the season. He has pitched at least seven innings without giving up a run in nine of his 42 starts with the Yankees, which matches Hernandez and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for the most such starts in the majors over the past two years.

The Yankees tied the score right away by scoring off Mark Buehrle in the first inning. Brett Gardner tripled to left-center and scored on a groundout by Robinson Cano. The first of two sacrifice flies by Jayson Nix gave Kuroda the lead in the fifth, and the bottom of the Yankees’ order constructed the bulk of a three-run rally in the seventh.

How about the 3-4-5-6 hitters combining to go 1-for-16 and still the Yankees winning, 5-0? Nix had a 0-for-0 game with two walks and two sac flies, the first Yankees player to get four plate appearances in a game without an official at-bat since Derek Jeter Sept. 12, 2006 against the Rays. Rookies David Adams and Austin Romine had a double and a single apiece, and rookie pitcher Preston Claiborne tossed another scoreless inning (that’s eight now in six appearances). Gardner also walked and singled in a run. It was all nice to see, but the way Kuroda pitched was unnecessary.

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