NEW YORK -- Hiroki Kuroda blew past expectations in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Too bad most of the Yankees' lineup can't get past the Mendoza Line.
The 37-year-old Kuroda struck out 11 Tigers in New York's 3-0 loss, third-most strikeouts by a Yankees pitcher in a playoff game. No one had reached the mark since Orlando Hernandez in Game 3 of the 2000 World Series.
Against Detroit, the 11-strikeout feat had been done in a playoff game just once before, when Bob Gibson whiffed 17 in Game 1 of in the 1968 World Series.
And then there was the 7 2/3 innings Kuroda went while throwing on short rest for the first time in his Major League career, in a game that was near must-win, considering Detroit ace Justin Verlander looms for Game 3.
"It's tough. You can't ask for any more from our starters," said catcher Russell Martin, who called a great game while going 0-for-4. "They've been doing a great job. Offensively, definitely, we have to pick up the slack and put some runs on the board to take pressure off our pitching. It's not going to be an easy task coming up ahead."
Jhonny Peralta broke up Kuroda's perfect-game bid with a single leading off the sixth. Kuroda was charged three runs, but the final two runs he allowed, both in the eighth, are hard to pin to him.
Second-base umpire Jeff Nelson missed an out call at second base with two down, when Austin Jackson singled. Omar Infante, who had also singled, went too far around the second-base bag. Robinson Cano tagged Infante for what should have been the final out of the inning.
New York trailed, 1-0, at the time, and Kuroda was pulled with 103 pitches. The righty said he knew in real-time that the call was bad.
"It's really disappointing," Kuroda said. "It's unbelievable that he made that call."
Both runs scored, but the way the Yankees tread water at the plate, they very well may have lost 1-0, even if the call had been correct. A lineup devoid of Derek Jeter, punch and most anything managed just four hits.
Lost in that inning was how Kuroda started it: with two strikeouts. He really racked up the whiffs early, striking out the side in the second and seven of the first nine he faced.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who went down swinging in the third, said Kuroda "was flat-out nasty."
"I thought both starting pitchers were absolutely terrific," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who got seven innings from Anibal Sanchez. "I haven't seen that much of Kuroda. I thought he was terrific, and Sanchez was matching him inning for inning. Not a hit through five I guess it was."
If the short rest had any ill effect on Kuroda, that wasn't reflected in the performance of his biting slider or his postgame comments.
"I try not to think about the days of rest that I had, that's going to put pressure on myself mentally," Kuroda said. "So I try not to think about that too much and be aggressive and get the very next hitter."
Kuroda said he could do it again, too, if need be.
"When I signed with the Yankees I came here to help this team win, and that's what I'm doing right now," Kuroda said.