Kuroda, CC vital to Yankees' late-season success

Kuroda, CC vital to Yankees' late-season success

NEW YORK -- For Joe Girardi, it's pretty hard not to scoreboard watch.

His Yankees crept to within 2 1/2 games of the Rays for the final American League Wild Card entering play Tuesday night, so he can't help but notice what other teams are doing on the field.

"[The scoreboard is] right in front of you, and it's flashing at every ballpark," Girardi said. "Does it take your attention away from the game? No. But it's pretty hard not to look."

But if the Yankees are going to make up those games over the season's final month, they might need Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia to get back on track. Though they're supposed to be the team's aces atop the rotation, the pair of starters compiled August ERAs of 5.12 and 5.94, respectively.

Sabathia's struggles have gone on all season -- his 4.91 ERA would be a single-season career high if it holds the rest of the year -- but Kuroda's struggles are more surprising. The right-hander had given up 19 runs over his last three starts, seeing his ERA rise from 2.33 on Aug. 12 to 2.89, entering Tuesday night's start against the White Sox.

The Yankees gave Kuroda an extra day of rest after his last start, and he skipped his normal bullpen session this week.

"You're going to have times when you're going to struggle. It's never predictable when it's going to be, but when you've been as good as you have for so long, it seems odd when you do struggle," Girardi said. "Right now, we'd really like him to get back to where he was."

With only 25 games remaining in the season, the two pitchers' success in September could be key for a Yankees team that still has work to do to get into the postseason.

"It makes it easier if you have five starters on a roll, obviously," Girardi said. "We could go out and bang 10 runs a game, and pitching becomes less of a factor. Obviously, we'd like to see them get on a roll in September, and if it does, it's really going to help us."

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.