Hiroki Kuroda set the bar for the Yankees' rotation Tuesday night.
"This is a very good lineup he just shut down," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Kuroda tossed a complete game shutout against Texas. "To not give up a hit until the seventh inning and only give up two hits and give us a complete game -- probably our best pitching performance this year."
Kuroda shined liked no Yankees pitcher has this year as he gave up just two hits in a 3-0 win. The veteran carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning as he recorded his second shutout of the year, the first Yankees to record a pair since 2005.
"I had to regroup myself a little bit (after the hit) but as I always say, me having a complete game or a shutout is not really important here," Kuroda said through a translator. "The most important thing is for the team to win and that's what we were able to accomplish today. That's why I'm happy."
As CC Sabathia has battled injuries this season, Kuroda arguably has been the team's best pitcher. He hasn't missed a start and is now 11-8 with a 3.06 ERA in his first season in the American League despite struggling in his first few starts.
Tuesday, facing arguably the best lineup in baseball, Kuroda dominated.
Through the first six innings, he held Texas without a hit and the Rangers managed just one ball out of the infield. They kept grounding out, especially to second base, as Kuroda used his slider to great effect. He said that it was one of the best sliders he had all season and thanked catcher Russell Martin, who returned the praise.
"This is a guy that likes big games and has done well in the playoffs, he's pitched well in big games," said Martin, who played with Kuroda in Los Angeles. "That just shows what type of character he has. He's a competitor and he enjoys the spotlight."
With the excitement in the stadium rising with each out, Kuroda's chance at history vanished in the seventh as Elvis Andrus beat out an infield single to shortstop. The 37-year-old received a standing ovation for his effort, and didn't let the hit affect him.
He gave up just one more hit the rest of the game and now leads baseball in games pitched of at least seven innings with no earned runs allowed with six.
"I feel bad I let down all the fans who were expecting me to throw a no-hitter but I was able to regroup myself and just focus on every pitch I threw toward the end. I was just glad that we were able to win," Kuroda said.
Kuroda's teammates raved about his performance Tuesday night, mentioning how he performed against one of baseball's top teams. Outfielder Nick Swisher was one of those impressed teammates after seeing Kuroda neutralize the high-octane lineup.
"Hiro is my hero," Swisher said.