Hiroki Kuroda strikes out 11 in win over White Sox

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Who needs CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, anyway? OK, well the Yankees do if they hope to go anywhere. But Hiroki Kuroda is holding things down quite nicely at the moment.

Kuroda was dominant this afternoon, allowing just three hits over seven shutout innings as part of a 4-0 win over the White Sox. He tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts while walking just one batter.

Kuroda got off to a bit of a shaky start in pinstripes, posting a 4.50 ERA through his first eight starts, but he has rebounded with a 1.99 ERA over his last eight and has allowed three runs or less in seven of them. The 36-year-old right-hander now has a solid 3.17 ERA and 80/31 K/BB ratio over 102 1/3 innings. Chatter that he couldn’t cut in the American League is but a distant memory.

The offense this afternoon was supplied by, you guessed it, the home run ball. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Dewayne Wise all had solo shots. Wise also added an RBI double. Pretty interesting week for that guy, huh?

Kuroda’s performance overshadowed Jake Peavy, who tossed his fourth complete game of the season. Incredibly, he’s taken losses in three of them. Peavy struck out 11 for his first double-digit strikeout game since May 22, 2009 against the Cubs. While he has lost each of his last four starts, he still has an outstanding 2.96 ERA and 101/24 K/BB ratio over 112 2/3 innings this season. He’s an easy call to make the American League All-Star team.

UPDATE: Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com notes that Peavy will honor the memory of former Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds by donating $100 to pancreatic cancer research for every strikeout in MLB games today. There were 24 strikeouts in this game alone. Good on you, Jake.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.