Who says baseball players don't play hurt?
Hiroki Kuroda and Tim Hudson may be bruised and sore, but that won't stop the two respective hurlers from making starts this evening in the finale of a three-game series between the New York Yankees and hosting Atlanta Braves.
Kuroda is set to take the hill for the Yankees despite taking a liner off his left foot in last Friday's gem versus the Mets. The right-hander suffered only a contusion, not a fracture, but did leave the ballpark on crutches.
The injury ended an outstanding outing for Kuroda, who gave up one hit and one walk while striking out a season-high seven batters. He retired the first 10 batters faced and the lone hit he gave up came with two outs in the sixth inning.
The victory improved Kuroda to 5-6 with a 3.46 earned run average through 12 starts this year and 2-0 over his past three outings, a span in which he has allowed two runs over 22 innings.
"When you have got a guy on the mound who is working quick and throwing strikes, it's keeping you in the game and those are the guys you want to play defense for," New York outfielder Nick Swisher said. "Kuroda had a good rhythm in game tonight and we had the bats working."
The 37-year-old has started to figure out the American League after spending the first four seasons of his MLB career with the Dodgers. Kuroda began his current three-game stretch with eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball to beat the A's on May 27.
Kuroda has a 2.10 ERA in five career meetings with the Braves, but just a 1-4 record.
Hudson, meanwhile, gets the call for the first time since throwing a five-hit shutout at the Marlins last Tuesday. He was given some extra rest following the 108-pitch outing, which produced his 13th career shutout, due to a sore left ankle. Julio Teheran made a spot start in Hudson's place on Sunday.
The right-handed Hudson walked three and struck out three to beat Miami and also drove in a pair of runs in the 11-0 triumph with a sac fly and RBI single. He improved to 4-2 on the season with a 3.83 ERA following his eighth start.
Hudson, 36, is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in 10 career meetings with the Yankees.
New York is poised to record its first ever three-game sweep of Atlanta after stretching its winning streak to a season high-tying five straight games with last night's 6-4 win.
The Yankees offense struggled into a historic six-run eighth inning that saw Alex Rodriguez tie the legendary Lou Gehrig with his 23rd career grand slam. Rodriguez matched Gehrig's major-league record after taking Braves reliever Jonny Venters deep over the left-field wall on a full count.
Rodriguez noted how it felt to match Gehrig, the Yankee great who played 17 seasons for the team before ALS knocked him out of the game.
"It means a lot. It's very special," said Rodriguez. "This game's very, very difficult. If you're not going to enjoy these great moments then it's not any fun.
"Gehrig's not only one of the all-time greats, but he's one of ours. He's a Yankee. He's one of those guys that if you ever have an opportunity, when they say, 'Who would you take to dinner?' I mean, for me, he would be top four or five."
Swisher added a two-run homer in the frame to save CC Sabathia from another loss. Sabathia won his eighth game despite giving up four runs and 10 hits over seven innings.
New York notched its 15th victory in 19 games and at 36-25, owns the best record in the American League and a one-game edge over Tampa Bay and Baltimore for first place in the AL East.
The Braves got a three-run double from Matt Diaz in the first inning but lost their third straight and fell four games behind the Nationals for the top spot in the National League East.
Lefty Mike Minor was lifted after giving up just his fifth hit, a one-out single to Derek Jeter in the eighth. Minor was charged for one run and Venters gave up four without retiring a batter.
"It is what it is. I made a bad pitch and he crushed it," said Venters. "Like I said, it's a shame. Mike threw the ball really well and personally I felt great. I just didn't make any pitches."
The Yankees improved to 8-2 all-time at Turner Field.