Hiroki Kuroda has started big games for teams based in New York, Los Angeles and Japan, and he will do so again on Sunday afternoon.
Rookie David Phelps was considered an option to start Game 2, but he ended up being used out of the bullpen in the 12th inning of Game 1's 6-4 loss to the Tigers.
Tale of the Tape: Game 2
|2012 regular season|
|Overall: 31 GS, 9-13, 3.86 ERA, 48 BB, 167 K||Overall: 33 GS, 16-11, 3.32 ERA, 51 BB, 167 K|
|Key stat: 2.43 ERA in month of September||Key stat: His 8 1/3 innings in Game 3 of the ALDS were a postseason career high.|
|At Yankee Stadium|
Career: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA (Yankee Stadium II)
| 2012: 19 GS, 11-6, 2.72 ERA, 28 BB, 101 K
Career: 19 GS, 11-6, 2.72 ERA, 28 BB, 101 K
|Against this opponent|
|2012: 1 GS, 0-1, 21.00 ERA
Career: 2 GS, 1-1, 7.27 ERA
|2012: 2 GS, 0-0, 3.38 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 0-1, 3.72 ERA
|Loves to face: Alex Rodriguez, 0-for-3
Hates to face: Raul Ibanez, 6-for-25, 3 2B, 5 RBIs, 3 BB
|Loves to face: Jhonny Peralta, 1-for-6, 2 K
Hates to face: Miguel Cabrera, 4-for-9, 2 HR, 1.667 OPS
|Why he'll win: Sanchez earned a quality start in eight of his last nine outings, including ALDS.||Why he'll win: Has been a much better pitcher at home this season (2.72 ERA, compared to 4.23 on the road).|
|Pitcher beware: Second career postseason start and it comes under the bright lights at Yankee Stadium.||Pitcher beware: Is starting on three days' rest for the first time in his MLB career.|
|Bottom line: Don't try to do too much.||Bottom line: Could show fatigue on short rest after throwing career high 219 2/3 innings this season.|
So it is Kuroda who gets the big stage for Game 2 at Yankee Stadium, making the start on three days' rest for the first time in his Major League career.
While it was a big assignment to begin with, it became even more weighty after the Yankees not only dropped a Game 1 heartbreaker, 6-4, to the Tigers in 12 innings, but also lost captain Derek Jeter for the rest of the postseason due to a fractured right ankle.
"Hopefully Hiro will come out and help us win the ballgame," said Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte. "He'll be just fine."
Kuroda looks forward to the challenge.
"This is probably the shortest rest I've had in my baseball career," Kuroda said through his interpreter. "What I'm trying to do right now is get rid of all the fatigue as much as possible to prepare for this game."
In making the decision to go with the veteran, Girardi was comfortable with the right-hander's mindset, not to mention how well he threw the ball in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Orioles.
"Sometimes you look into people's eyes and you see, you know, their eyes also tell you a lot about how they are feeling, and if they are ready to go," Girardi said. "I love the way he threw the ball the last time. He didn't really have too many taxing innings in that game, so we feel good about him."
In Game 3 against the Orioles, Kuroda fired 8 1/3 strong innings, giving up five hits and two runs in a no-decision. That game was far more relevant to Girardi's decision-making process than any fatigue Kuroda might have displayed in September, when he posted a 5.22 ERA in five starts.
"From what I understand, he has done it in Japan before," Girardi said. "And I know that's a while ago. I understand that. But this time of year, guys feel a little bit fresher. I mean, that's the bottom line. You get to this time of year, some life comes back into your body. The cooler weather helps and you just feel fresh. And he's determined to go."
Here is another factor: Kuroda was a far better pitcher at home this season (11-6, 2.72 ERA) than on the road (5-5, 4.23).
What has enabled Kuroda to thrive so much at Yankee Stadium?
"I don't know what the secret is to my success in this ballpark, but my style of pitching is to be aggressive," Kuroda said.
Kuroda's lone Major League appearance on three days' rest was in 2009 as a reliever, with the Dodgers. He pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief against the Brewers on July 12, allowing three runs.
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86) is scheduled to start for Detroit.
Kuroda's first season with the Yankees was a considerable success, as he went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA. He pitched well against the Tigers in two starts this season, receiving no decisions while allowing five runs over 13 1/3 innings.
Going against the Tigers means pitching against the Triple Crown presence of Miguel Cabrera.
"I think, overall, he is a well-rounded player," Kuroda said of Cabrera. "He could go [deep], and he also has a really good average. He's a really tough out, so what I'm trying to do is minimize the damage, and I [will] try to figure out a pitch I can throw to him and try to be aggressive."
Though the decision to start Kuroda wasn't announced until the hours leading up to Game 1, Girardi had made it even before the Yankees beat the Orioles in Game 5.
"I was told [Friday] before the game by the pitching coach, but I had already prepared myself to pitch for [Sunday], so there was no surprise there at all," Kuroda said.
It isn't common for teams to have to go to a starter on three days' rest in the second game of LCS play, but this year's new playoff format left Girardi without an off-day after his team beat the Orioles in Game 5 of the Division Series.
"I am not crazy about it, but there is not really a lot I can do about it, so we have to live with it," Girardi said. "The extra Wild Card was added, and this is a function of that because the TV schedule was set. We all know the importance of growing our game and the TV schedule. So we've got to deal with it."