Yankees vs. Braves: Hiroki Kuroda Pitches Bombers to 3-2 Win, Complete Sweep

Doug RushSenior Analyst IJune 14, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 13: Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 13, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It was almost like a flashback of the 1996 World Series.

The Yankees were trailing the Braves 2-0 in the Fall Classic as the series headed to Atlanta, and the Yankees took the next three games at Fulton County Stadium to go ahead 3-2 and move it back to Yankee Stadium.

Fast forward 16 years, and the Yankees and Braves are playing a crucial interleague series in which both teams are trying to get the upper hand in their respective divisions.

And just like 1996, the Yankees went down to Turner Field and completed the three-game sweep of the Braves on Wednesday night, winning 3-2.

The final game featured a good pitching matchup in Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees and Tim Hudson for the Braves.

Kuroda turned in his fourth straight solid performance for the Yankees, giving them six solid innings, scattering nine hits over two runs, walking two and striking out eight.

The only damage done to Kuroda was a two-run home run off the bat of Brian McCann, which at the time put the Braves up 2-1, but other than that, the Braves' bats were kept in check.

For most of the beginning of the 2012 season, we all wondered if Kuroda could be consistent for the Yankees, and he is clearly showing he can be with his latest stretch of starts.

He has improved his record to 6-6 with a 3.43 ERA, throwing 81.1 innings with 56 strikeouts to just 25 walks, which are very good numbers.

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 13: Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees is interviewed after the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 13, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

What has really been encouraging to see about Kuroda is he has been attacking the strike zone more and getting ahead of hitters in counts, which is why his strikeout totals have been going up over the last couple of games.

Hudson also pitched well for the Braves pitching six innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking none and striking out eight.

Hudson allowed an RBI single in the first inning to Alex Rodriguez that put the Yankees up 1-0, and then the big blow was a two-run home run by Curtis Granderson in the sixth inning that put the Yankees ahead 3-2, which is where the score stayed for the rest of the game.

That home run for Granderson was his 19th of the season, which leads the team. Granderson is well on pace to hit over 40 home runs, just like he did a season ago when he hit 41.

Rafael Soriano completed his 11th save of the season in the ninth to finish out the game.

Following the win, the Yankees remain all alone in first place in the AL East, having won their last six games, but the Orioles are one game out in second place.

The Yankees will be off on Thursday and will continue interleague play on the road as they travel to play the red-hot Washington Nationals.

The Yankees have been playing much better baseball as of late, going 9-1 in their last 10 games. Not only are they winning, but they are winning with quality.

It's one thing to blow out opponents, but it's the one-run games that show how tough a team really is, and the Yankees are winning those, too.

Will the Yankees be able to keep up their strong play against the National League teams? If they want to keep the Orioles and Rays in their rear-view mirror, they will have to.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.