ARLINGTON, Texas - Earlier this week, Derek Jeter lamented that the team's scuffling offense probably left Yankees pitchers feeling they have to be "perfect.''
And Thursday afternoon, Hiroki Kuroda was nearly up to the task -- although he didn't seem all that pleased afterward.
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Continuing a masterful July, the 38-year-old pitched seven shutout innings on a blistering Texas afternoon in leading the Yankees to a 2-0 victory over the Rangers in front of 35,139 at Rangers Ballpark.
"He was brilliant again today,'' Joe Girardi said of Kuroda (10-6, 2.51 ERA), who has allowed two runs in 26 innings this month.
The victory allowed the Yankees to split the four-game series and finish their seven-game trip, which started last Friday in Boston, at 3-4. The Yankees (54-48) start a three-game series against the red-hot Rays Friday night at the Stadium.
In stifling heat, Kuroda allowed six hits, walked one and struck out three. He outpitched lefthander Derek Holland, who threw a two-hit shutout against the Yankees June 27 at the Stadium. Holland (8-6, 3.06) wasn't bad himself, allowing two runs and eight hits in 71/3 innings.
After David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth, Mariano Rivera -- who was honored on the field before the game, with Rangers president Nolan Ryan, former Yankees and Rangers closer John Wetteland and current Rangers closer Joe Nathan taking part in the ceremonies -- threw a scoreless ninth to record his 33rd save in 35 opportunities.
"Oh my God,'' Rivera said of Kuroda. "That guy has been solid for us the whole year. To come and pitch the way he did today was brilliant. And in this weather? He was outstanding for us. It means a lot. We needed to win this game.''
Kuroda wasn't quite as impressed with his performance.
"I don't think I had any particular pitch that was working well,'' he said. "From the get-go, I didn't have a good outing but I was able to get big outs. It was a decent outing.''
Austin Romine, who had a career-best three hits, doubled twice and scored the first run, laughed. "I would disagree with that,'' the catcher said, noting that Kuroda's splitter was especially good. "He's a perfectionist, I guess you could say. But I knew what we had from the beginning of the game.''
The starting pitchers matched zeros until the sixth inning. Five pitches into the inning, the Yankees had the lead.
Romine, hitting .165 coming in but hitting better in the last week, started the sixth with a first-pitch double to left. Ichiro Suzuki bunted him to third and Brent Lillibridge, who won Tuesday night's game with a ninth-inning single, ripped a first-pitch double to left that made it 1-0.
"Mainly my approach,'' Romine said of what's allowed him to go 7-for-15 with four doubles in his last six games. "K-Long got in the cage and said something's not working. He said, 'I don't think it's physical, I think it's mental.' ''
Romine said they spent time working on hitting the ball to the opposite field, which "helped me see the ball a little better.''
Romine also threw out Ian Kinsler attempting to steal second for the first out in the bottom of the sixth. An infield single and a walk followed, but Vernon Wells made a sliding catch of A.J. Pierzynski's liner for the third out.
Robinson Cano doubled with one out in the eighth, went to third on Wells' single and scored when Eduardo Nuñez beat out a potential double-play ball.
"It's not exactly what we want,'' Girardi said of the 3-4 trip. "But it's a lot better than 2-5. This was a big win.''