Hiroki Kuroda sharp as Yankees sweep Royals for 5th in row
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After his previous start, Hiroki Kuroda lamented the one mistake that got his team beat.
Of course, in that game, the Yankees provided him no offense, so he wasn't close to being the main culprit.
Kuroda was just as good Sunday, but this time he was backed by home runs from Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells that led to a 4-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Bombers' fifth straight victory produced a three-game sweep.
The first-place Yankees, a season-best 10 games over .500 at 23-13, play a doubleheader in Cleveland Monday before heading home to face the Mariners on Tuesday night.
"These guys have gotten it done,'' Joe Girardi said. "Different ways, different guys every night. Pitching has been very, very good. We've continued to lose players during the season but these guys have done a great job.''
Kuroda, who shut out the Rockies for 52/3 innings Tuesday before Carlos Gonzalez's two-run homer led to a 2-0 loss, has been at the forefront of that collective effort.
He allowed a first-inning run Sunday and another in the eighth, but that was it. The 38-year-old righthander improved to 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA after allowing six hits in 72/3 innings.
"Pretty much his formula,'' Girardi said. "Located his fastball with some sink with his slider and his split is basically his formula, and he had it going again today.''
Mariano Rivera moved to 15-for-15 in saves with a scoreless ninth, the continuation of a dominant month by the bullpen. It marked the sixth straight game in which the unit has not allowed a run, a span of 152/3 innings.
"Our starters are going deep into games, and it seems anybody we call in the bullpen is going to come in and get outs for us,'' said catcher Chris Stewart, who had two hits.
Cano's homer, a two-run shot and his 10th of the season, and Wells' ninth homer came back to back in the third inning. Wells' RBI double in the fifth, part of a 3-for-4 day that made him 9-for-25 with three homers and seven RBIs on this trip, gave Kuroda a 4-1 lead.
Cano has had two hits in three of his last four games after starting the trip 0-for-10.
"I had to be a little more patient,'' said Cano, adding that he was swinging too much at first pitches outside the strike zone. "You can't give away at-bats.''
Kuroda started the eighth at 82 pitches but allowed a leadoff double to Elliot Johnson, who scored on Alcides Escobar's groundout to make it 4-2. After Alex Gordon's two-out double, Girardi brought on David Robertson, who retired Billy Butler for the inning's final out.
As Kuroda walked off the mound, he had some words for umpire Laz Diaz. The pitcher thought he squeezed him on a 2-and-0 pitch to Gordon, who doubled on a 3-and-2 pitch after being ahead 3-and-0.
Kuroda rarely shows emotion on the mound. When he was asked afterward about the mild altercation, he smiled and said through his translator, "I don't remember.''
An observer, however, said Kuroda was upset because Diaz, considered one of the more confrontational umpires in the game, started the argument by saying something to him.
"It was heat of the moment, so I was kind of fired up, which is something I really don't like to do,'' Kuroda said.
Oddly, Kuroda, who walked one and struck out one, wasn't thrilled with his outing. "I don't feel I was particularly good today,'' he said.
That, needless to say, wasn't the prevailing opinion in the clubhouse.
"I thought he did great today,'' Stewart said. "But if he can go out and do better, so be it.''