Pitchers’ duel decided after their departures
Dodger Stadium has been the sight of many a pitchers’ duel over the past half-century going back to Johnny Podres, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser against the likes of Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Dwight Gooden and Greg Maddux, to name just a few.
Add the names of Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw to that list. The Yankees righthander and the Dodgers lefthander each sporting 10-6 records put on a dazzling show Wednesday night in a game that was not decided until they had left. Had they not come out of the game, it might still be going on. That is how good they were.
Kuroda was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth after pitching shutout ball for seven innings, the eighth time this season he has not allowed a run. Kuroda gave up five singles and only one walk with eight strikeouts. The Dodgers got only two runners to second base during the time Kuroda was on the mound.
It was a great comeback for Kuroda, who pitched at Dodger Stadium, his home from 2008 to 2011, for the first time since he joined the Yankees last year. It was his bad luck to be paired with Kershaw, the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2011 and who was equally effective.
The Yankees got only two runners past first base in eight innings against Kershaw, who gave up five singles and no walks with five strikeouts. Kershaw came out of the game after putting down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the eighth to get a runner in scoring position that never came home.
The game was decided following the departures of Kuroda and Kershaw in a bizarre ninth inning as the Yankees rallied to end a 13-inning scoreless stretch for a 3-0 victory. Lyle Overbay, who had driven in both Yankees runs in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss, ended the shutout with a clutch hit both after and before some shaky Los Angeles defense.
The inning began with a leadoff walk, to Derek Jeter, who was replaced by pinch runner Eduardo Nunez. The Dodgers had a chance for a double play on a ground ball near the middle by Robinson Cano, but shortstop Hanley Ramirez hesitated slightly before feeding second baseman Mark Ellis and only got the force on Nunez.
Alfonso Soriano made the second out on a high bouncer to third baseman Juan Uribe, who had no play at second base so went for the out at first base. With Cano in scoring position, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly ordered pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki walked intentionally and brought in lefthander Paco Rodriguez to face the lefty-swinging Overbay, who batted for Brent Lillibridge.
Rodriguez had Overbay looking foolish trying to hit his curveball. After two called strikes on check swings, Overbay got the benefit of the doubt from third base umpire Bill Miller, who did not rule that he went around as he had on the previous pitch. Rodriguez finally hung a curve that Overbay lashed into center field for a single to score Cano.
Mark Ellis, the Dodgers’ hero the night before with the game-winning hit, was responsible for the Yankees’ next two runs when he dropped Jayson Nix’s fly ball to shallow right field. Ellis apparently did not hear Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig call for the ball and nearly collided with him as the ball popped out of his glove.
Mariano Rivera, who was honored by the Dodgers before the game as he received a $10,000 donation to his foundation and an enormous fishing pole, notched his 34th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
While he was stuck with another no-decision, Kuroda had to be pleased about his performance. If anyone in baseball did not want to see the calendar change today, it was Kuroda, who had a magnificent July. In five starts that month, Kuroda was 3-0 with two no-decisions and a 0.55 ERA. Kuroda has made 10 starts in July the past two seasons for the Yankees and is 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 68 innings.