W2W4: Rangers at Yankees (August 14)

Kyle Terada/US Presswire

Hiroki Kuroda and Robinson Cano will try to lead the Yankees to another win over the Rangers tonight.Hiroki Kuroda Stats To Watch

Kuroda returns to the Bronx tonight where he has a 2.55 ERA in 13 starts compared to a 4.23 ERA on the road.

He has been even better in his past three home outings, allowing just three runs in 27⅓ innings (1.27 ERA), though the Yankees lost two of those three games. Opponents are hitting .150 with runners in scoring position in those three starts, including 0-for-8 by righties.

One key for him at home this entire season has been his ability to get ground balls. At Yankee Stadium, 54 percent of his balls in play have been grounders, compared to a 48 percent ground-ball rate on the road.

But it’s not just Kuroda who deserves the credit. The Yankees' infield defense has been significantly better in his home starts compared to the road. Nearly 80 percent of his ground balls have been converted into outs at home; on the road, only two-thirds of his grounders have become outs.

Kuroda also has shown a surprising ability to limit homers at Yankee Stadium. He has allowed only seven longballs in 88⅓ innings at home, compared to nine in 61⅔ road innings.

He has avoided the dreaded short porch in right field by simply not letting batters hit the ball in the air to right. At home less than one in every four balls in play to right field has been a fly ball. When a ball is put into play to center or left at home, that percentage jumps to nearly one-third.

Matt Harrison Stats to Watch

Harrison has allowed at least four runs in three of his past four starts, bumping his ERA from 2.87 to 3.31. He’s at 13 wins, one shy of his total from 2011.

He’s had two issues during this stretch. One is that he’s given up more extra-base hits to lefties (4) then he did in his first 16 starts this season (3).

LHB vs Matt Harrison
2012 Season

Harrison has come inside to lefties more than twice as often (61 percent of his pitches) in this stretch than he did earlier this season with limited success, as shown in the chart on the right.

The other is that his walk rate and home run rate against righties are basically double what they were when he was pitching well.

His breaking pitches to righties have been ineffective, yielding 11 baserunners and netting just nine outs.

How do you get David Murphy out?

As the Yankees found out on Monday, Josh Hamilton isn’t the only hot hitter in the Rangers' lineup. David Murphy, the Rangers’ leading hitter since the All-Star break, was 2-for-4 with a double and home run.

Murphy is an excellent hitter against offspeed pitches from right-handers. His .344 batting average against them ranks third-best in the AL behind Mike Trout and Robinson Cano, so Kuroda should be cognizant of that.

With two strikes, Kuroda’s out-pitch against Murphy may actually be his fastball. Murphy is one of the rare hitters whose batting average is worse against two-strike fastballs from righties (.214) than offspeed pitches (.286) over the last two seasons.