Kuroda allowed one run over seven frames and Chavez smacked a two-run homer to post the Yankees to a 2-1 win over the Orioles in the Bronx on Monday.
“The most important thing is that we got a win,” Kuroda told reporters via a translator. “I am satisfied with that.”
Of course, beating the Orioles anywhere isn’t exactly new for the Bombers. The Yankees have not lost a season series to Peter Angelos’ beleaguered Baltimore team since 1998, are 43-15 against the O’s dating to the 2009 campaign and have won 31 of their last 40 against Baltimore at home.
Suffice to say that the Yankees are satisfied with both the win and the second quality start in a row for Kuroda, who pitched extremely well in his last outing against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, but came up short in the 2-0 loss last Tuesday.
Back in the Bronx in a game with a lot less fanfare than his last start, which was beamed back to Japan, Kuroda settled back into a rhythm in this one and built on his last good start with perhaps his best one of the season.
Even though the Yankees No. 2 starter was the recipient of a few well-placed liners right at fielders, Kuroda kept things in control by limiting his walks, keeping his pitch count low and holding Baltimore to a lone run before letting New York’s highly touted pen finish the job.
He walked one and struck out three while throwing 52 of his 87 pitches for strikes en route to improving to 2-3 on the season.
“I thought he pitched effectively inside,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters after the game. “I thought his slider was good tonight. The only walk he had scored. He attacked the zone all night and I thought he was effective.”
As effective as Kuroda was on the mound, he was perhaps even more effective with the leather, partnering up with teammate Russell Martin to keep the score at 2-1 in the seventh.
Baltimore had runners at second and third with one out in the frame before Kuroda retired Chris Davis on a nasty splitter in the dirt. Kuroda then bounced another one on a 1-0 pitch to former Yankee Wilson Betemit, which bounced past the dirt and toward the O’s dugout as Nick Markakis headed home.
Martin pounced on the ball and lofted a backhanded flip to Kuroda, who blocked the plate and retired Markakis for the final out of the frame.
“An outstanding play on both their parts,” Girardi said. “Obviously, it's a huge play for Hiroki. … I talked about Russell being as athletic as they get when you talk about a guy behind the plate. He's outstanding. It's a very tough play because that splitter can go either way. And it's tough to block.”
Kuroda put it more succinctly.
“I was convinced that I was going to get an out if I got a good throw from Russell,” he said. “It came out right.”
Baltimore scored their lone run in the top of the second on a walk, a single and a Davis sacrifice fly before the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the frame.
Mark Teixeira lead off the frame with a sharp single to right before Baltimore starter Jason Hammel (3-1) retired Raul Ibanez. But Hammel tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball to Chavez, which the Yankee reserve infielder promptly deposited into the Yankees pen in right-centerfield for the final margin of victory.
“I try to stay aggressive,” Chavez said to the YES Network’s Jack Curry. “I don't like giving pitchers strike one. It was one of his flattest fastballs of the day and I was able to make contact with it.”
The blast was the third of the season for Chavez, who already has more homers this year than he did in his injury-plagued 2011 campaign (2). It was also the first homer as Yankee in the Bronx for the former Oakland Athletics third baseman, who appeared in just 58 games last year.
Also making a rare appearance in the outfield was Eduardo Nunez, who made his first career start in left. Nunez had some adventures in the outfield, but caught everything that headed his way.
Nunez, Ibanez and Andruw Jones will occupy the corner outfield positions until Brett Gardner returns from the DL on May 3 and Nick Swisher returns to the Yankee lineup. Swisher hopes to return in time for the series against the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, but the Yankees brass will most likely wait a week before penciling Swisher back in the lineup.
Derek Jeter had one hit in four at-bats to see his average plummet to .389. The Yankees captain finished with a Major League-leading 37 hits in April.
Teixeira posted a pair of base hits for the Bombers, who finished the month of April at 13-9.