There’s a lot to be worried about for Hiroki Kuroda today, it seems. There’s the fact that he hasn’t pitched in three weeks and is coming off a neck injury, to be sure, and then there’s the ever-present lazy journalism of trying to drum up stories about last year’s overblown ‘headhunting’ incidents.
But me? I’m nothing but confident. Just look at the facts…
1) Kuroda was excellent after returning from being hit in the head.
His first start back was on September 5, and in five starts he was very effective - a 2.79 ERA in which he allowed opponents to get on base at just a .269 clip. That even includes a lousy outing against Pittsburgh in which he lasted just 4 innings, and even that didn’t push the ERA over 3.
2) Kuroda owns the Phillies.
Hiroki’s got four career starts against Philadelphia:
In just two seasons, Kuroda’s built up quite the history of success against the Phillies, plus this won’t even be the first time he’ll face them in October. It’s even more than that though; look at Kuroda against the current members of the Phillies:
.179 OBP! .336 OPS! Just two extra-base hits in 58 plate appearances, and Ryan Howard in particular being completely neutralized. How does that not give you confidence? It’s not just Kuroda, too…
3) Cliff Lee hasn’t had the same level of success against Dodger batters.
While Kuroda’s dominated Philly, here’s Lee against the Dodgers he’ll see tonight:
That’s 5 times he’s seen one of these men take him deep, as compared to 0 times that Kuroda could count, and an OBP against that eclipses Kuroda’s OPS against – with Manny in particular hitting him hard.
This is not, of course, to say that this game is in the bag – clearly, Lee is a great pitcher, and Citizens Bank Park is going to be cold, wet, and unfriendly tonight. Just don’t forget how much the Dodgers do have going for them – especially when they get into the bullpens.