An optimist might say that Hiroki Kuroda, on the bright side, earned another "quality start" Tuesday night. In Brett Gardner's estimation, though, it was simply a "wasted start."
Kuroda allowed two runs in eight innings and held his own against Tampa Bay ace David Price, but the Yankees fell, 2-1, at the Stadium, and Kuroda suffered what teammates consider an undeserved loss.
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"It's a shame," Gardner said. "Hiro pitched really, really well . . . but right now we're not doing a good enough job of putting together at-bats."
Kuroda allowed nine hits and a walk, but consistently worked himself out of jams and gave the Yankees a chance to win, as well as his bullpen an opportunity to rest. The righthander (5-6) struck out seven and threw 69 of his 109 pitches for strikes.
He was done in by James Loney's solo homer, which put the Rays ahead 2-1 in the sixth.
Kuroda, through his translator, admitted that with the offense struggling, he felt pressure to be excellent, "especially [when] we're facing Price, who's a real good pitcher. I wasn't expecting it to be easy."
It was even more difficult for his offense, which Price smothered. In seven innings, the lefty gave up a run, four hits and three walks and struck out nine. Price did end a streak of five consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts.
"As a pitcher it's always disappointing to get a loss," Kuroda said, "but all I can do is regroup and try to get a win next time."
The Rays went ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Logan Forsythe singled in Matt Joyce. The Yankees answered in the bottom of the fourth when Derek Jeter, who had doubled, later scored from third on a throwing error.
But that was all the Yankees could muster as they dropped their fourth straight and eighth of their last 10. The offense has been held to three or fewer runs five times in that span.
"It's really frustrating when a guy is doing that good and as a hitter you can't help him out," said Francisco Cervelli, who caught Kuroda. "Everything was on and working for him and he battled, but we couldn't help."
After a dreadful April -- with a 5.28 ERA -- Kuroda has pitched well of late and five of his last six outings have been defined as quality starts (a minimum of six innings pitched with a maximum of three earned runs allowed).
"He's trusting his pitches more and hitting the corners," Cervelli said of Kuroda's improvement.
Cervelli also referenced last season, when Kuroda started well (2.65 ERA in the first half) but fizzled down the stretch (5.44 ERA in August and September), and said "hopefully this year will be the exact reverse of that."
Despite the loss, Kuroda lowered his ERA to 4.08, and he pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 30.2 innings in June.
"I feel like I've been pitching better lately," the 39-year-old said. "I believe if I continue to pitch like this, the wins will follow."