NEW YORK -- It had been a week since Hiroki Kuroda last took the mound but more than a month since he delivered a performance like he did on Wednesday in the Yankees' 3-2 win in 12 innings over the Orioles in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
The highest innings total of Kuroda's career caught up with him after he had spent the summer months as New York's most consistent starter, taking the mound every five days while CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte spent time on the disabled list. So Kuroda stopped throwing bullpen sessions between starts in late September, and when manager Joe Girardi decided on his postseason rotation, he gave Kuroda two extra days of rest, slotting him in third behind Pettitte, who started a 3-2 loss in Game 2 on Monday.
The results showed, as Kuroda delivered his longest outing since Aug. 31, also against the Orioles, in pitching 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball. He remained on the hook for a loss, though, until Raul Ibanez forced extra innings and secured a walk-off victory with a pair of solo homers.
"[Kuroda] was outstanding," Girardi said, "and the extra rest helped him."
A pair of Baltimore home runs tarnished Kuroda's stats line, as Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado each took him deep, collecting two of the five hits Kuroda allowed. But of Kuroda's 105 pitches, Girardi believes the right-hander's slider up in the zone for Machado's blast into the Baltimore bullpen in left-center field was the only mistake.
"That's pretty amazing, seeing that he threw over 100 pitches," Girardi said.
It was arguably the best start of Kuroda's postseason career, with his three prior playoff appearances coming with the Dodgers. Kuroda went 2-0 and allowed two runs over 12 1/3 innings in 2008, but his last postseason start ended after he had allowed the Phillies six runs in only 1 1/3 innings during the 2009 National League Championship Series.
On Wednesday, Kuroda turned the ball over to the bullpen with one out in the ninth and the game in reach, having struck out three batters and walked one.
A tired Kuroda struggled in the key starts amid a September pennant race for the Yankees, but he finally looked more like his summer self in his final start of the regular season. The right-hander allowed two runs over seven innings in Game 162, when New York clinched the AL East title with a win over Boston. A full week later, he returned to form, helping the Yankees move within one game of ousting the Orioles.
"I was a little bit nervous," Kuroda said, "but overall, I felt pretty much the same way as I did during the season."
Familiar tune sets up Mo's first pitch in Bronx
NEW YORK -- Metallica's "Enter Sandman" played earlier on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium than in previous postseason games, as injured closer Mariano Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles.
Public-address announcer Paul Olden never announced Rivera's name as the 42-year-old took the mound in full uniform to the sound of his iconic warmup music and delivered a strike off the mound to backup catcher Chris Stewart.
Should the Yankees find themselves in a save situation this postseason, it will instead be "Pitch, Soriano" playing throughout Yankee Stadium -- the song personalized for Rafael Soriano, who took over closing duties for New York shortly after Rivera tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice on May 3 in Kansas City.
Soriano converted 42 saves in 46 opportunities during the regular season but has yet to appear this postseason. The right-hander has one career playoff save, which he recorded for Tampa Bay in 2010, while Rivera holds the record with 42 career playoff saves.
Rivera has repeatedly said he has every intention of returning next season, unlike veteran left-handed starter Andy Pettitte, who said before throwing out the first pitch prior to Game 2 of the ALDS last season against Detroit that he believed he would remain retired. Pettitte made 12 regular-season starts this year and took the loss in Monday's Game 2 at Baltimore.
Playing matchups, Girardi puts Chavez at hot corner
NEW YORK -- The Yankees may not have much data on Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, but what little they do have told manager Joe Girardi that Eric Chavez should be in his lineup for Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Chavez is 3-for-6 with a home run against the 27-year-old right-hander, and as Girardi reviewed video of Chavez's at-bats and saw four well-constructed at-bats, he couldn't resist plugging Chavez in as New York's starting third baseman on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
"Chavy is 3-for-6 and squared up four balls on this guy in six at-bats," said Girardi, who batted Chavez ninth. "I know it's a small sample, but obviously he's seen him and sees the ball."
Chavez did not play in the first two games of the ALDS in Baltimore. With Chavez manning the hot corner, Girardi was freed to switch Alex Rodriguez to the designated-hitter role while keeping Rodriguez in the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
The switch meant that the Yankees had left-handed hitting Raul Ibanez on the bench as a potential late-inning power threat. Ibanez served as the DH for Game 1 before sitting in Game 2 against lefty Wei-Yin Chen.
"He's been a really big pinch-hitter for us, and I like having that," Girardi said. "That's not the reason I didn't start him. It's just that I looked at Chavy -- and Raul's at-bats were pretty good off this guy too, but Chavy's at-bats were really good, so I decided to go that way. But it's nice to have that."
Jeter deflects Rose's talk of battle over crown
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter already holds the Major League record for postseason hits in a career, and improving upon that mark to help the Yankees win Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles was his only interest on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, not the regular-season hits record.
Jeter, 38, finished his 18th big league season in 10th place on baseball's all-time hits list with 3,304 -- 952 behind Pete Rose's record of 4,256, which Rose said Jeter has little chance of breaking in an interview with Sports on Earth's Joe Posnanski.
"I'm not talking about Pete Rose, man," Jeter said. "We're trying to win a game here."
With a Major League-high 216 hits during the regular season, Jeter topped 200 for the first time in four years and recorded the second-highest total of his career. He went 4-for-9 in the first two games of the ALDS and entered Wednesday's game with 195 career postseason hits, holding a comfortable lead for the Majors' all-time postseason hits record. But Rose told Posnanski he did not believe Jeter could continue to be as productive as he was this season for a long enough period to challenge the all-time hits record, especially while playing shortstop.
"I'd say Jeter will probably end up in batting average about where I was," said Rose, a lifetime .303 hitter across 24 seasons. "So if his average is around the same as mine, he has to get about as many at-bats as I did. I got 14,053 at-bats. What's he got? Ten thousand? Eleven thousand? He's a great hitter. How's he going to get 3,500 more at-bats? I think time's running out."
Jeter, who has 10,551 career at-bats, had a career-high 683 at-bats this season and played in 159 games, his most since 2005. Should he record 200 hits again next year -- the final guaranteed season of his contract -- Jeter would still need to repeat the feat three more times to be about 150 hits shy of Rose's record entering his age-43 season.
Rose detailed the difficulty of that in his interview with Posnanski, but when asked if he has given any thought to Rose's comments or the record, Jeter only said, "What do you think?"
Girardi said that bullpen "rust is a little concern" as the Yankees headed into Game 3. Only right-hander David Robertson (1 1/3 innings) saw action in Games 1 and 2.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Rodriguez are the first trio of teammates with at least 2,500 hits to play together in a postseason game.
The Yankees entered play on Wednesday with a 112-69 (.619) all-time record in postseason home games. Only the Indians (27-16, .628) have a higher home winning percentage in the playoffs among AL franchises.
Umpire Brian Gorman worked home plate for Wednesday night's ALDS Game 3. Before he dressed for work, Gorman and his crew passed by the batting cage several times. And before he put on his chest protector, Gorman wore another piece of baseball attire -- a tie featuring the likeness of the Norman Rockwell painting "Rainout Today?"
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.