It was a day of many firsts for manager Don Mattingly and the Dodgers on Wednesday at the Stadium, but it was Hiroki Kuroda who earned the victory in his first career start against his former team.
Kuroda navigated his way through 6-2/3 innings of two-run ball — and Ichiro Suzuki ripped a key home run and drove in three — as the Yanks held on in the afternoon portion of a separate-admission doubleheader for a 6-4 win in the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in the Bronx in their history, and their first appearance here since Game 6 of the 1981 World Series.
Pushed back a day due to Tuesday’s rainout, the opener marked the first game in New York for Mattingly — the former Yankees star — in an opposing uniform. He tipped his cap when the Bleacher Creatures showered him with him roll-call chants of “Donnie Baseball” in the bottom of the first inning — and again when the Yanks showed a video tribute on the scoreboard in the second to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
The game also featured the Bronx debut of Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig, and the Cuban sensation had the crowd buzzing throughout, including being struck out looking by Yanks closer Mariano Rivera for the final out.
Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
Don Mattingly gets a shout-out from the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures in his return to the Bronx, but the former Yankees star can’t pick up a win against his old club.
Kuroda, making his first career start against the team he pitched for from 2008-2011, scattered eight hits and took a shutout into the seventh, when the Dodgers scored twice to shave the Yanks’ lead to 3-2. Kuroda improved to 8-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 13 daytime starts as a Yankee over the past two seasons.
A.J. Ellis lifted a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. singled in another run to chase Kuroda (7-5) in the seventh, but Shawn Kelley stranded two inherited runners with a strikeout of Nick Punto to end the inning.
The Yanks (39-31) added three runs in the bottom half, with the first coming via two errors on the same play by Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario. With runners on first and second, the righty mishandled Vernon Wells’ soft comebacker and then inexplicably wheeled and threw the ball into centerfield. Belisario then drilled Thomas Neal in the left shoulder blade with the next pitch before departing to boos from the bipartisan crowd, before Ichiro added a two-run single to left against lefty Paco Rodriguez to make it 6-2.
After Hanley Ramirez completed a 4-for-4 game with a two-run blast against Preston Claiborne in the eighth, David Robertson and Rivera (25th save) combined to record the final five outs to seal the Yanks’ second straight win following a five-game losing streak.
Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay smashes a two-run double in the second inning.
Puig’s buzzworthy Bronx debut began when he was cut down by Brett Gardner trying to stretch a routine single to center into a double in the first inning, and the rookie also tried but failed to throw out Neal at first base on a single to right in the second.
Neal eventually scored on Lyle Overbay’s two-run double over centerfielder Andre Ethier’s head for a 2-0 Yanks lead. Puig also was robbed by an acrobatic reflex play by Robinson Cano on a hard-hit smash in the sixth. Puig later did stretch a single to center into a double in the eighth, two batters ahead of Ramirez’s home run.
Kuroda had helped himself out of a jam in the fourth with a defensive gem of his own. Hanley Ramirez’s double to right put runners on second and third with none out, but Kuroda made a glove save on Ethier’s liner up the middle and threw to third to double up Adrian Gonzalez, who had singled to open the inning.
Ichiro provided the Yanks’ third run with a leadoff shot to right against Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu in the sixth, his first homer in 115 at-bats since May 10.