Results tagged ‘ Hiroki Kuroda ’

What a difference a break makes

The Yankees have broken out splendidly in the post All-Star break period. They limped into the traditional midseason break with a .500 record at 47-47 and had concerns about an injury-plagued pitching staff and underachieving lineup.

Sunday’s 3-2 victory completed a three-game sweep for the Yanks over a Cincinnati club that is a contender in the National League Central but was without its star first baseman Joey Votto. Perhaps he might have caught the fly ball Brian McCann hit into shallow right field that fell among three fielders apparently blinded by the infamous late-afternoon sun at Yankee Stadium.

It became a walk-off single for McCann in scoring Jacoby Ellsbury, who was a one-man gang Sunday. Ellsbury had a perfect day at the plate with a double, three singles, a walk and two stolen bases.

The Yankees won the game against All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, the hard-throwing lefthander whose fastball topped off at 102 miles per hour Sunday. Ellsbury fought off some tough pitches to open the ninth with a single to left field. Catcher Brayan Pena had trouble handling some of Chapman’s pitches, allowing Ellsbury to get to third base with none out on a stolen base and a wild pitch. Chapman recovered to strike out Mark Teixeira and get McCann on what appeared a popout that was not deep enough for even the super-swift Ellsbury to score — except nobody got a glove on it.

Before that moment, the Yanks seemed on the brink of letting this one get away. In one of his rare hiccups, Dellin Betances gave up a game-tying home run to Todd Frazier in the eighth inning. It could have been worse, but on the previous play Betances picked Skip Schumaker off first base. The Yankees left eight runners on base from the fifth to the eighth innings and finished with 13 left on in going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

The Reds were miserable in that category during the series with only one hit in 22 at-bats in the clutch as Yankees pitchers came through at critical moments. That one hit was a two-out double by Schumaker in the fifth, the only run surrendered by Hiroki Kuroda in his 6 2/3 innings, and an unearned run at that. The runner who scored had reached base on an error by second baseman Brian Roberts.

The Yankees had taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth off Johnny Cueto, who had a shaky outing, on RBI singles by Derek Jeter and, who else, Ellsbury, but they stranded two runners after one out and the bags full in the sixth.

Kuroda’s effort was part of a strong showing in recent games by the rotation alongside Shane Greene, David Phelps and Brandon McCarthy, who were a combined 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA, five walks and 31 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.

So what’s all this concern about Yankees pitching? The injuries to Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have created opportunities for other pitchers who to this point have stepped up and given the Yankees positive feelings about their chances the rest of the way.

Weird inning hurts Kuroda, Yanks back at .500

On the mound at Camden Yards for the Yankees Friday night was the last survivor of their Opening Day rotation, and he gave them what they desperately needed from a starting pitcher — length.

Hiroki Kuroda is still part of the starting unit while former mates Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have all gone off to the disabled list, some of whom not to return in 2014.

The Yankees departed Cleveland with a fatigued bullpen, so the seven innings Kuroda gave them was heaven sent. Only one of those innings was a clinker, but that was enough to let the Orioles tie the score.

It was a strange fourth inning for Kuroda, who blew the 2-0 lead provided by solo home runs from Brian Roberts in the second and Kelly Johnson in the third off Miguel Gonzalez, who recovered to hold the Yankees scoreless with only three more hits through the eighth.

Kuroda gave up only one hit in the fourth, a bad-hop single past Derek Jeter by Adam Jones, which came after the righthander hit Steve Pearce with a pitch leading off the inning. Kuroda then uncorked two wild pitches, one that advanced the runners and another one out later that send Pearce home. A sacrifice fly by Chris Davis tied the score.

The score stayed that way until the 10th inning when Orioles catcher Nick Hundley lined a single to center field off Adam Warren to score Manny Machado, who had led off the inning with a double. Warren followed Dellin Betances, who was brilliant once again with two hitless innings featuring three more strikeouts. The rookie All-Star’s 84 punchouts are the most for any reliever in the majors.

The Yankees’ offense sputtered as it managed only one hit over the last six innings. The Orioles’ 3-2 victory pushed the third-place Yankees five games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East as they fell back to .500 at 46-46.

That the game went into extra innings was not what the Yankees wanted by any means, not just two nights after playing 14 innings in Cleveland. It was the Yankees’ fourth extra-inning game in their past 11 games, which is why the relief squad is so weary.

The Yankees added some pitching Friday by recalling Matt Daley from Triple A Scranton and designating Jim Miller for assignment. They also acquired Jeff Francis from Oakland for cash and a player to be named, but the lefthander was not expected to join the team until Saturday. He could be a candidate to start Sunday night in the opening created by Tanaka’s assignment to the DL because of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Francis, 33, is 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA in a career covering 238 appearances (217 starts) with the Rockies, (2004-10, ’12-13), Royals (2011), Reds (2014) and Athletics (2014). This season he is a combined 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) with the Reds and A’s. He last pitched July 2 for Oakland in a 9-3 loss at Detroit.

Tanaka sustains first severe setback with elbow pain

How many Yankees found themselves over the course of the first portion of the 2014 season asking this question:

“Where would be without Masahiro Tanaka?”

Let’s hope we don’t have to find that out. Yankees Universe held a collective breath Wednesday with the news that Tanaka returned to New York to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam on his right elbow after complaining of soreness there during the Yankees’ 5-3 loss Tuesday night at Cleveland. Tanaka allowed five runs and 10 hits, both season highs against him, in 6 2/3 innings.

For the time being, the Yankees are terming the injury right elbow inflammation. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list, which now makes four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation on the DL. Ivan Nova is lost for the entire season. CC Sabathia may be also, and Michael Pineda won’t likely be back before August. Hiroki Kuroda, the only member of the Opening Day rotation still a member of the starting unit, better not walk under any ladders.

It is not yet time for Yankees fans to push the panic button despite the dire news. The club won’t know for sure what Tanaka’s issue is until the MRI is studied. The problem is that Dr. Chris Ahmad, the team physician, is attending a major orthopedist convention in Seattle, the same one that has prevented the noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews from examining Sabathia’s ailing right knee to determine if surgery is required.

Tanaka’s next scheduled start was to have been Sunday night at Baltimore, the Yankees’ final game before the All-Star break. The righthander was selected for the American League squad but was not expected to pitch in the game because of the Sunday start. It is unclear now whether he will go to Minneapolis for the game. The AL has replaced him on the roster with Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara, which stinks. It should have been David Robertson.

That is the least of the Yankees’ concern at this point. Tanaka, their prize signing in the past off-season, had proved to be every bit as effective on this side of the Pacific Ocean as he was back home in Japan where he was 24-0 last year.

In his first 14 starts for the Yankees, Tanaka was 11-1 with two no-decisions and a 1.99 ERA. He has come down to Earth somewhat in the past four starts in which he is 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA. Tanaka has nonetheless placed himself in contention for the AL Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards by leading the league in victories with his 12-4 record, tied for first in complete games with three and ranking second in ERA at 2.51.

Now it is matter of watch and wait to see how serious the injury to Tanaka is. As for the answer to that question, well, figure it out: the Yankees were 13-5 in games started by Tanaka and 31-39 in games started by everyone else.

Yanks beat Twins, drop Soriano, deal Nuno

Sunday was a busy day for the Yankees. They designated Alfonso Soriano for assignment, traded Vidal Nuno to the Diamondbacks for another starting pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, and built a 9-0 lead over the Twins by the fourth inning and hung on to win, 9-7.

The game was the best part of the day as the Yankees took three of four games from Minnesota. Derek Jeter had three hits to raise his career total to 3,400. He received a standing ovation from the crowd at Target Field during his ninth-inning at-bat, which the fans figured was his last in their ballpark. Well, he will back be there again next week when the All-Star Game is played. Jeter was chosen by the fans to start at shortstop for the American League.

Also with a three-hit game was Ichiro Suzuki, who has become the Yanks’ regular right fielder now that Soriano is gone. They were in a platoon until Sunday, a platoon that was not working for Soriano.

What a difference a year makes. Last July 26, Soriano returned to the Yankees in a trade from the Cubs for minor league pitcher Corey Black and gave the team a jump-start in the second half. He hit .256 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 58 games and 219 at-bats.

Yet in essentially the same amount of time this year (67 games and 226 at-bats) Soriano hit .221 with six home runs and 23 RBI. He was batting only .204 against right-handed pitching and was facing most lefthanders in a platoon but was hitting only .247 against them. He had not hit a home run in 73 at-bats since May 17. Soriano had a miserable game Saturday as he went 0-for-4 and made two fielding blunders in left field although he was not charged with any errors.

With Carlos Beltran limited to designated hitter duty because of an ailing right elbow, right field now belongs to Suzuki, who began the season on the bench but has become the Yankees’ leading hitter with a .294 average.

Brian McCann returned to the lineup and caught after missing two games because of a sore left foot. He drove in one of the Yanks’ two first-inning runs with a double. They pounded Twins starter Ricky Nolasco for four more runs in the third, three coming on Jacoby Ellsbury’s fifth home run of the season.

By the fourth inning, the Yankees were up, 9-0, but Hiroki Kuroda could hardly coast. He was cuffed for four runs, seven hits and two walks and committed an error in 5 2/3 innings. Adam Warren, Jim Miller and David Robertson allowed one run apiece as the Twins got within two runs before D-Rob notched his 21st save. Robertson is averaging 16.43 strikeouts per nine innings, the best mark in the majors among pitchers with at least 25 innings. Eight of his past nine outs have been by strikeout.

Robertson was passed over for the All-Star Game, however, as two other Yankees pitchers were named to the AL staff, Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. The latter is a rarity considering that most pitchers chosen for All-Star staffs are starters or closers. Robertson himself was one of those exceptions when he was selected for the game at Phoenix in 2011 when he was still a setup reliever.

Nuno, 26, pitched in 17 games for the Yankees this season and was 2-5 with a 5.42 ERA in 78 innings while posting a .282 opponents average with 26 walks and 60 strikeouts. In his 14 starts, he was 2-5 with a 4.89 ERA in 73 2/3 innings.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is only the 12th pitcher since 1900 to pitch at least five innings while allowing two runs or less and five hits or less in each of his first four major league starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He made his big-league debut last year and in five games, including three starts, was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings. In his three starts, Nuno was 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA in17 innings.

In 22 career games (17 starts) for the Yankees, he was 3-7 with a 4.78 ERA, a .268 opponents average, 32 walks and 69 strikeouts in 98 innings. Nuno, who will turn 27 on July 26, signed with the Yankees as a minor-league free agent June 18, 2011. He was originally selected by the Indians in the 48th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. He was born in San Diego and resides in National City, Calif.

McCarthy, who turns 31 Monday, has a 3-10 record with a 5.01 ERA, a .298 opponents average, 20 walks and 93 strikeouts in 18 starts and 109 2/3 innings this season. He started 40 games over parts of two seasons with Arizona and went 8-21 with a 4.75 ERA, a .297 opponents average, 41 walks and 169 strikeouts in 244 2/3 innings. McCarthy has a career mark of 45-60 with a 4.21 ERA in 193 games (139 starts) over nine major league seasons with the White Sox (2005-06), Rangers (2007-09), Athletics (2011-12) and D-backs (2013-14).

The 6-foot-7 righthander is expected to make his first start for the Yankees Wednesday night at Cleveland. The Yankees plan to call up righthander Shane Greene from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start Monday night against the Indians.

Yankees mired in mediocrity

So after 82 games, the Yankees have reached the level of mediocrity. Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rays put the Yankees’ record at 42-42. Another lackluster offensive showing wasted a strong start by Hiroki Kuroda and resulted in the Yanks’ fourth straight loss.

The Yankees’ only run came on a throwing error by the versatile Ben Zobrist, who is playing shortstop these days instead of second base or the outfield because Yunel Escobar is on the disabled list. After that, Jacoby Ellsbury stole second but was stranded as Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran flied out and Alfonso Soriano struck out.

Kuroda pitched well enough to win. He scattered nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings. The Rays bunched three singles for a run in the fourth inning. James Loney led off the sixth with his fifth home run for what proved the winning run.

In the bottom of that inning, Derek Jeter singled and stole second, but the Yankees couldn’t get him home. Ellsbury was called out on strikes. After a walk to Teixeira, Beltran flied out and Soriano looked at a third strike.

In the ninth, Grant Balfour, who has been a bust as a closer (5.34 ERA), walked two batters but escaped danger when Yangervis Solarte grounded out to end the game.

The Yankees had 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Rays weren’t much better (1-for-8), but Tampa Bay is a last-place club that is 12 games under .500. Former Cy Young Award winner David Price had his streak of consecutive double-digit strikeout games end at five but still had nine punchouts, the most he ever totaled in a game against the Yankees. Price raised his career record against them to 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA, including 6-2 with a 3.67 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday’s series finale marks the end of five consecutive sets against American League East competition for the Yankees, who got off to a great start when they swept first-place Toronto, but they have not won a series since. They lost two of three to the Blue Jays in a return engagement at Toronto, two of three to the Orioles, two of three to the Red Sox and the first two games of this series to the Rays. They have gone from 3-0 to 6-8 in this stretch.

Fortunately for the Yankees, mediocrity seems to have hit the entire division. Despite the recent downturn, the Yankees are only 3 1/2 games out of first place. Checking the standings in the other divisions, it would appear that the Yanks would have to win the division in order to make the playoffs because four other clubs are well ahead of them for the two wild card berths. There are 80 games remaining on the schedule, however, plenty of time for the Yankees to change direction, which clearly they must to return to serious contention.

D-Rob called on to avoid sweep at Toronto

Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances Wednesday night. The manager wanted to avoid being swept in Toronto as the Yankees had done to the Blue Jays last week at Yankee Stadium. Toward that effort, Girardi did not hesitate to have David Robertson work a five-out save to salvage at least one victory in the three-game series.

The Yankees came back from Tuesday night’s sloppy loss to turn back the Blue Jays, 5-3, and end a four-game losing streak. The Jays jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jose Reyes hit the first pitch from Hiroki Kuroda for a home run, but the Yankees attacked Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison for four runs in the third and held the lead with solid ensemble work from the bullpen.

Kuroda earned his first victory in five starts since May 28, although he had not pitched that poorly (3.33 ERA) during the four-game stretch in which he had two losses and two no-decisions. The Japanese righthander gave up two runs on a two-out single by Melky Cabrera in the fifth that made it a one-run game but worked out of trouble in the sixth and departed with one out and a runner on first base in the seventh with the Yankees up by two runs.

Shawn Kelley gave up a single to Reyes but then got Cabrera on a fly to right. Girardi brought in lefthander Matt Thornton to face lefty-swinging Adam Lind. During the at-bat, Anthony Gose and Reyes, two of the fastest players in the major leagues, pulled off a gutsy double steal. Thornton got the job done, however, as Lind hit the ball right back to the pitcher for the third out.

Adam Warren started the eighth, but when he gave up a one-out single to Dioner Navarro Girardi summoned Robertson. D-Rob had not pitched in a week and was plenty strong. He finished off the eighth with two strikeouts, then got another punchout to start the ninth before inducing two ground balls for his 18th save.

The Yankees were only 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and had two runners thrown out trying to steal but got key hits when it mattered. Getting a rare start behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli doubled home the Yanks’ first run in the third inning. The first of Jacoby Ellsbury’s three hits was a two-out single that sent home Cervelli. Mark Teixeira followed with his 14th home run to make the score 4-1.

After the Jays closed to 4-3, the Yankees scored a run without a hit in the seventh on two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by Teixeira.

The Yankees can now exhale Thursday, their first day off after playing for 23 straight days. It is also Derek Jeter’s 40th birthday. He and his teammates could surely use the rest.

HOPE Week: Career Gear

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Hiroki Kuroda, Alfonso Soriano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter pose with Career Gear participant Leon Clarke Jr. after fitting him with a suit from DKNY.

The Yankees held the second day of HOPE Week 2014 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Tuesday by celebrating Career Gear, an organization that helps promote the economic independence of low-income men by providing financial literacy training, professional attire and career development tools.

Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano visited Career Gear’s office in lower Manhattan, where they helped measure and outfit men with suits provided by DKNY.

Career Gear participants then shared their respective success stories. These men and their families, along with administrators from Career Gear, were guests of the Yankees for Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

With the help of more than 80 referral agencies in the New York City area, Career Gear has helped more than 35,000 men transition from poverty to employment and financial self-sufficiency. Providing these men with a business suit is just the first step. Through weekly peer workshops, one-on-one mentoring and a supportive environment, clients make the connections and build the confidence to find employment and continue down the path of personal development.

“Our philosophy is that everyone deserves a second, third or fourth chance,” Career Gear executive director Gary Field said. “Sometimes just a first chance is what they need. We help men redefine themselves by providing them with the tools to get where they want to go.”

All participants are invited to take part in job and life-readiness programs. The curriculum resembles a typical school semester. Classes take place from August through December and January through June, covering topics critical to professional and personal success. Diverse offerings include résumé writing, financial investment, social skills and family health.

Frequently, the same men that have reaped the benefits of Career Gear’s programs return to serve as mentors to first-time participants.

“What I want to do is make a difference in people’s lives,” Field said. “I would like to help pass the skills that I have learned to the next generation of people that are dedicated to helping our world move forward.”

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Clarke, Soriano and Jeter

Makeshift lineup comes through for Kuroda

That was as makeshift a lineup as Yankees manager Joe Girardi has formulated all season in Wednesday night’s finale of the trip through Chicago and St. Louis. Regular catcher Brian McCann made his first major-league start at first base with backup catcher John Ryan Murphy batting fifth in the order.

With Mark Teixeira still bothered by an inflamed right wrist and Derek Jeter and Yangervis Solarte needing some time off, the Yankees’ alignment had a decidedly different look. Solarte has shown signs of weariness while in a 0-for-14 slump, so Girardi needed Kelly Johnson to play third base. Johnson had been playing first base during Teixeira’s absence. The other backup first baseman Girardi has used is Brendan Ryan, but he had to start at shortstop for Jeter, who played all but one inning of the previous eight games on the trip, three of which went into extras.

And with Alfonso Soriano on the bench, once again the Yankees’ lineup was not overloaded with power.

So what happened? All those singles the somewhat soft batting order put together against a tough pitcher, St. Louis starter Shelby Miller, constructed a 7-0 lead by the fourth inning and went on to a 7-4 victory that made it a 5-4 trip, not bad when you consider that the Yanks were 1-3 at one point.

Miller’s Achilles heel is the base on balls (30 in 56 2/3 innings entering the game), which was a factor as well. He walked only two batters, but both came in the third to fuel a rally. Singles by Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury following a walk to Brett Gardner created the first run. After Miller walked McCann to load the bases, Murphy singled to center for two more runs. The third run scored when Ichiro Suzuki beat the relay to first base to avoid a double play.

The Yankees struck for three more runs the next inning after two were out. Two runners came home on a single by Ellsbury, who had three hits, three RBI and two stolen bases in the game and seems to be back on track. McCann made it 7-0 with a single.

Hiroki Kuroda, who last year suffered from lack of offensive support from his teammates, welcomed the huge lead. The righthander was touched for nine hits in 5 2/3 innings but no walks and left with the Yankees ahead, 7-3.

Dellin Betances continued his effective relief by getting a key out in the sixth when the Cardinals threatened to tighten the score. St. Louis had a run in and runners on first and third with two out in the sixth when Betances was summoned to face Matt Holliday, who ended the threat with a flyout to left.

That was the extent of Betances’ work Wednesday night and did not include a strikeout, which has been a specialty of the rookie this season. Betances leads all major league relievers with 51 strikeouts among the 92 outs he has recorded. The hard-throwing righthander is holding batters to a .143 average in 105 at-bats. He has struck out multiple batters in 18 of his 20 appearances this season in which he has faced at least two batters, including 11 straight from April 11 to May 10.

Girardi brought in David Robertson for the final four outs. Things got a bit dicey when Robertson gave up an RBI single to Kolten Wong, his fourth hit, in the eighth and put the first two batters on base in the ninth. But D-Rob rebounded to strike out the side and preserve Kuroda’s first road victory since July 25 last year in 12 starts. He had been 0-7 away from Yankee Stadium since then.

The Yankees finished with 12 hits. Joining Ellsbury in the parade were Roberts, McCann, Ryan and Johnson with two apiece. All the hits were singles except for Roberts’ fourth-inning double. The Yanks were able to put enough singles together to end the trip on a positive note.

D-Rob & Yanks come off the deck

If there is one thing David Robertson learned from Mariano Rivera about the closer’s role it is that you cannot dwell on blown saves. They are a hazard of the profession and while fans will agonize over squandered saves the closer cannot. It is a job like housekeeping in that people do not notice it as much unless you do not do it.

The daily grind of the baseball schedule demands that players turn the page, particularly closers. Like his predecessor, Robertson wanted another save opportunity the very next day after he gave up a game-winning, two-run home run to White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night. D-Rob got that chance Saturday after the Yankees came off the deck and scored three runs in the ninth inning against Chicago to tie the score and went ahead in the 10th on a home run by Jacoby Ellsbury with two out.

Robertson preserved the Yankees’ lead this time as he has done now in 10 of 11 save chances. He struck out the side. The third strikeout came after pesky Adam Eaton (8-for-14 in the series) singled with two out and stole second. So getting Gordon Beckham looking to end the game was a pressurized situation for Robertson.

This was a game the Yankees needed desperately. For the second straight day, the club that took a 3-0 lead in the first inning did not go on to win. The Yankees had the first-inning lead Friday night on Brian McCann’s three-run homer, but Hiroki Kuroda couldn’t hold it. The Yanks went in front again by a run with two runs in the seventh, but Robertson’s blown save cost them.

Saturday, the White Sox scored three runs in the first off Vidal Nuno, who tightened after that and pitched into the eighth without allowing another run. Yankees bats remained cold, however, as they had only one hit through seven innings and three through eight against lefthander John Danks. Now it would be the White Sox closer who would blow the save.

With two out and a runner on first base, the Yanks erupted for three runs off righthander Ronald Belisario, who nearly blew a save to them two nights ago when he gave up two runs in the ninth but held on to nail down a 3-2 White Sox victory. A double by Alfonso Soriano got one run in, and singles by Yangervis Solarte and McCann as a pinch hitter delivered two more. It marked the second time on the Chicago trip that the Yankees tied the score in the ninth after being shut out for eight innings and went on to win in extras. They came from behind to beat the Cubs, 4-2, in 13 innings Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

Ellsbury, who had started the ninth-inning rally with a single, came through with the 10th-inning homer off righthander Zach Putnam. Ellsbury looked as if he might be coming out of a prolonged slump with a couple of extra-inning hits at Wrigley, but he then went 0-for-11 at U.S. Cellular Field before his ninth-inning single. The center fielder was batting .348 as late as May 3 but is now down to .263. Maybe the game-winning homer is just what he needs to get hot again.

It certainly was what the Yankees needed on what was turning into a brutal trip. Now they have a shot at squaring the season Sunday behind Masahiro Tanaka and take some momentum into St. Louis Monday for the start of what will be their last inter-league series of the regular season.

Yanks’ pitching still on a roll

The recent success by Yankees pitchers had a carryover effect for Hiroki Kuroda in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Pirates at Yankee Stadium. David Robertson’s four-out save (No. 8) preserved the first victory in six starts since April 12 for Kuroda, who was a frequent winner over Pittsburgh in his years with the Dodgers but made his first start against the Bucs since joining the Yankees three years ago.

The victory improved Kuroda’s career mark against the Pirates to 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Those are the most victories for him against one team except for the Padres. The righthander has an 8-4 career mark against San Diego.

Kuroda was touched for a couple of home runs among six hits he gave up and allowed three earned runs with two walks and seven strikeouts in a formidable effort that stretched the Yankees’ winning streak to four games during which the pitching staff has combined for a 1.00 ERA. The starters’ ERA over that stretch is 1.09 in 24 2/3 innings.

After giving up a first-inning run on a solo homer to Neal Walker, the Yankees succeeded in giving Kuroda a bit of a cushion by striking for three runs in the bottom of the first against Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who has a 0-6 record despite a 3.45 ERA. The first five batters reached base against Morton and the first three scored.

The Yanks loaded the bases without a ball leaving the infield as Brett Gardner walked, Derek Jeter beat out a bunt single and Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch. Mark Teixeira kept up his productive hitting with a single to center field for two runs. A single to center through the shift by Brian McCann brought in another run.

Kuroda worked out of a jam in the fourth when a walk, an infield single and a passed ball by McCann put runners on second and third with one out. Kuroda got a called third strike past Starling Marte before Ike Davis walked to load the bases. Kuroda retired Gaby Sanchez on a grounder to shortstop to end the threat.

Kuroda was not as fortunate with the Pirates’ other Sanchez, Tony, who led off the fifth with a home run. Clint Barmes also hit the ball hard with an opposite-field double to left. He scored one out later on Walker’s hard liner off a leaping third baseman Kelly Johnson’s glove for a single that moved the Bucs within a run. Kuroda retired Andrew McCutchen on a fielder’s choice and struck out Pedro Alvarez on a wicked splitter and then pitched a hitless sixth with two strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense went into slumber. Morton gave up one hit over a 17-batter stretch from the second inning through the seventh and picked off the one who reached base on a single, Zoilo Almonte, for the third out of the fourth.

That made the outs precious for the Yankees’ bullpen. Matt Daley, Matt Thornton and Adam Warren negotiated their way through the seventh and two outs into the eighth. With a runner at second base and two out in the eighth, Robertson came on and struck out Marte. D-Rob added two more punchouts in a hitless ninth to get a long day off to a good start.

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