Ichiro homers as Yankees walk off with victory
Manager Joe Girardi had seen Hiroki Kuroda throw 11 pitches to Leonys Martin and two of those went over the right-field fence.
When Martin came up a third time, Kuroda was nearing 100 pitches and Girardi wasn’t taking any chances.
He brought in Boone Logan and Martin’s first crack at hitting a third home run ended quickly with a three-pitch strikeout.
Ichiro Suzuki ended the game two innings later with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Yankees a 4-3 victory over the Rangers.
“Any game is very important,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “But when you’re facing their best, especially in the American League, a pitcher that’s always at the top and obviously we have one of our best in Kuroda, so when you get a win like that, it’s a win but kind of a bigger win.”
Last night’s meeting between Yu Darvish and Kuroda marked the 11th matchup between Japanese-born starters. The first was May 7, 1999 at Yankee Stadium when Hideki Irabu beat Seattle’s Mac Suzuki. It was one of four times the Yankees have been involved.
“I’m sure over there a lot of people are really happy,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “For me I was concentrating on what I can do on the mound but I was excited with how it ended.”
Kuroda has started four of those games and three with the Yankees, including Darvish’s 2-0 win in Texas on April 24, 2012. Darvish struck out 10 Yankees that night but he was slightly off Tuesday.
He allowed solo home runs to Travis Hafner in the fourth, Brett Gardner in the fifth and Jayson Nix in the sixth. It marked the first time in 45 career starts Darvish gave up three home runs.
Kuroda seemed to grow stronger after the second Martin home run. He retired the final eight hitters and recorded four of his six strikeouts in that span.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.