First Pitch: Can Kuroda keep pace?

NEW YORK -- Sunday would be a good day for Hiroki Kuroda to flash the form that he showed in the first half of 2013.

Kuroda has been one of many inconsistent performers on the Yankees’ pitching staff this season.

In his last outing, Kuroda left the Yanks with a 7-4 lead but earned a no-decision as the Mets rallied for a 9-7 win. Still, Kuroda’s numbers left something to be desired.

He gave up four runs on seven hits (two homers) in six innings.

He’s lost four of his last five starts and hasn’t won in his last three starts at home.

That’s Kuroda’s longest home winless streak since he joined the Yankees. He last lost four-or-more straight home starts in 2011. That was in the midst of eight straight winless starts for the Dodgers.

Kuroda's struggles are amplified due to various injuries to the Yankees pitching staff, which have been well documented. They are without CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. So that’s one reason why they could use a dominant turn from Kuroda (2-3, 4.62) on Sunday afternoon.

Here's another: Kuroda is starting Game 1 of a double-header, so it’s almost vital that he eat some innings to provide rest for a bullpen that had to toss four innings on Saturday.

One thing Hiroki has going for him on Sunday? A history of success against Pittsburgh.

In his career against the Pirates, the hurler is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA. He's given up just 37 hits in 44 innings pitched.

Those numbers read a lot like the Yankees' staff as a whole of late.

Bombers pitchers have thrown 23 straight scoreless innings before Starling Marte ended the streak on Saturday with a homer in the sixth. Still, Yankee arms have limited opponents to just one run over the last 27 innings.

Surely, Joe Girardi hopes that Kuroda can keep pace on Sunday.