Hiroki Kuroda vs. the Orioles
The biggest key for Kuroda could be his pitch location against the Orioles' lineup.
In his two starts against Baltimore this season, he had vastly different locations and vastly different results.
On April 30, Kuroda's pitch locations basically matched his season average. He threw to the outer-third or inner-third (or off the respective corners) 80 percent of the time and kept the ball out of the middle of the plate. The net result: seven innings pitched, one run allowed in a 2-1 win.
On Aug. 31, Kuroda left the ball over the middle-third of the plate (width-wise) much more often than usual. Of his 99 pitches, 29 were over the middle-third (the most such pitches he made in any start all season).
The Orioles got four hits against those pitches, including a J.J. Hardy home run, in a 4-1 win.
One other thing to watch from Kuroda:
In his last two starts of the season, right-handed hitters were 12-for-26 against him. During most of the regular season, Kuroda could count on getting a right-handed hitter (like Hardy, Mark Reynolds or Adam Jones) to chase pitches out of the zone at a rate of once for every three pitches he threw.
In those last two starts, he only got 10 chases on 47 such pitches (21 percent).
Kuroda and the long ball
Kuroda had a 4.63 ERA in his final seven starts, with seven home runs allowed in 44 2/3 innings. He was allowing a home run every 9.7 innings prior to this stretch.
Kuroda fared well in terms of keeping the ball in the park at Yankee Stadium, allowing 12 home runs in 132 1/3 innings
Kuroda's home-field advantage
For whatever reason, Kuroda's slider/splitter combo fared significantly better at Yankee Stadium than it did on the road.
Opponents hit only .162, with a 40 percent miss rate on their swings against that pitch combination in Yankees home games, compared to .279 with a 34 percent miss rate on the road.
Kuroda's playoff history
Kuroda has made three career playoff starts, two of which were very good and one that was awful. He beat the Cubs with 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the 2008 NLDS and beat the Phillies with six innings of two-run ball in that year's NLCS. The next year, he got pummeled by the Phillies in the NLCS, yielding six runs in 1 1/3 innings in Philadelphia.
Stat of the Day
The Yankees would have to lose twice at home to lose this series. Since the wild-card format began in 1995, the Yankees have only lost twice at home in an LDS.
They did so in 2001, losing the first two games to the Athletics before taking the next two in Oakland and the final one in the Bronx. And they did so last season against the Tigers, with the second loss being in the clinching Game 5.