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TORONTO ? For four months, the Yankees had MLB Jersey so many problems, you needed two hands ? even a foot at times ? to keep count.
More All-Stars on the disabled list than on the field. No righthanded power. Part-time players filling full-time roles. Even more injuries. CC Sabathia‚Äôs velocity. Andy Pettitte‚Äôs age. Phil Hughes‚Äô inconsistency. The list seemed endless.
The only name that never appeared there was Hiroki Kuroda.
It‚Äôs there now.
Kuroda‚Äôs latest clunker came in the form of a five-inning, seven-run thumping by the last-place Blue Jays, a team against which he was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three previous outings this season.
Technically, he was charged with only five earned runs thanks to a throwing error by Chris Stewart, but does it really matter? Kuroda gave up nine hits and a walk, putting the Yankees Blackhawks Jersey in a 7-0 hole after the third inning.
‚ÄúEvery start is important,‚ÄĚ Kuroda said through his translator. ‚ÄúBut to not have my stuff at this stage of the season is pretty frustrating.‚ÄĚ
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From April through July, the Yankees knew Kuroda would give them a solid effort and a good chance to win every five days regardless of whatever else was going on with the team.
Yanks scoring only three runs per game? No problem; Kuroda will hold the opposition to two or fewer. Bullpen worn down? Don‚Äôt worry; Kuroda is good for eight innings.
Despite his modest win total, Kuroda‚Äôs name was even being brought up in Cy Young conversations thanks to his league-high nine scoreless outings and a five-start stretch in July that saw him go 3-0 with a 0.55 ERA, lowering his season ERA NHL Shop to an AL-best 2.38.
Then the August heat arrived, and Kuroda‚Äôs season took a turn the Yankees simply weren‚Äôt expecting. Talk all you want about the jolt the Yankees have received from Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez and the rest; if Kuroda can‚Äôt regain the form that thrust him into No. 1 starter territory, the Yankees‚Äô postseason hopes are little more than a pipe dream.
The loss, combined with wins by the A‚Äôs and Red Sox, pushed the Yankees‚Äô wild-card deficit to 5.5 games and their AL East number to 8.5, making such a dream a longshot regardless. Still, given Pettitte‚Äôs recent turnaround, Ivan Nova‚Äôs second-half surge Make Your Own Football Jersey and the rejuvenated lineup, there at least seemed to be reason for hope.
That, of course, was assuming Kuroda continued to fill the ace role vacated this season by a mediocre Sabathia. So much for that.
Kuroda‚Äôs August has been nothing short of puzzling. Consider the following:
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He hadn‚Äôt allowed nine hits in a game all season; he‚Äôs done it in four of five starts this month, including Wednesday night‚Äôs disaster.
He hadn‚Äôt given up a home run in eight straight starts before giving up a total of five in his past two.
He entered August with a 2.16 ERA in 12 starts dating back to May 28, allowing 19 earned runs in 79 innings. In five outings this month, he‚Äôs given up 18 earned runs over 31.2 innings, a 5.11 ERA that puts him in the company of Phil Hughes, the most maligned pitcher in New York.
So what happened? How did Kuroda morph into Kei Igawa right in front of our eyes?
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs just making bad pitches every once in a while and they‚Äôre not missing them,‚ÄĚ Stewart said. ‚ÄúIt could be mechanics. It could be that it‚Äôs late in the year, his body could be getting tired, he‚Äôs not able to physically repeat what he was doing early on in the year.‚ÄĚ
Kuroda has repeatedly denied feeling fatigue, pointing to the fact that he threw more than 200 innings the past two seasons.
Could that be the issue, though? Kuroda is 38, not exactly a spring chicken. After throwing 212.2 innings in Japan in 2005, Kuroda didn‚Äôt reach the 200 mark again until 2011. Is it possible that the increased workload the past two seasons is catching up with him?
Following Wednesday‚Äôs loss, Kuroda finally admitted that his arm Chicago Blackhawks Jersey might not be in the same shape it was the first four months. ‚ÄúThis time of the season, you have a lot of innings thrown,‚ÄĚ Kuroda said. ‚ÄúThere are issues that you have to figure out, but I have experienced this before. I think I‚Äôll be able to regroup.‚ÄĚ
He‚Äôd better, or he and his teammates Cheap Jerseys will have plenty of time to rest come October.