TORONTO - Beforehand, Joe Girardi expressed hope it would be the night Hiroki Kuroda got "back on track."
But the 38-year-old righthander stayed very much off it, struggling again in a 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays in front of 36,565 at Rogers Centre last night.
The loss completed a 2-4 trip for the Yankees (70-63), who dropped to 5 1/2 games out of the AL's second wild-card spot. The club lost two of three to the Rays -- hardly an embarrassment -- following that up by losing two of three to the last-place Blue Jays (60-74), against whom they were 12-1 this season entering the series.
On the trip, the Yankees -- who start a 10-game homestand tomorrow against the Orioles, with the White Sox and Red Sox to follow -- were held to two runs in four of the six games.
"We're playing the teams [ahead of us] so we need to play well," said Derek Jeter, who went 1-for-4, starting his third straight game at shortstop after returning from the DL Monday. "We don't have too much room for error so every game we play is important."
There was plenty of error in Wednesday night's defeat, starting in a four-run, 29-pitch first inning in which a cross-up involving Kuroda and catcher Chris Stewart led to two unearned runs.
With two runs already in, Kuroda hit Rajai Davis with a pitch, but he struck out J.P. Arencibia looking. However, the 95-mph pitch appeared to cross up Stewart and the ball banged off his glove and trickled away. Stewart did have time to throw Arencibia out, but his throw plunked the catcher in the back a step from first, the ball rolling deep into foul ground. The passed ball allowed Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis to score to make it 4-0.
"I called a slider and he threw a fastball," Stewart said. "I was expecting it to break down and away and it just stayed over the middle of the plate and off my glove. Tried to force the issue after that and should have just eaten the ball."
Kuroda (11-10, 2.89 ERA) allowed seven runs -- five earned -- and nine hits over five innings. The pitcher came in having lost three of his last four starts, going 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA over the stretch. Before that, he had lost one of his previous nine, going 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA.
"To not have my stuff at this stage of the season is pretty frustrating to me," Kuroda said.
Said Stewart: "He's just making bad pitches every once in a while and they're not missing. Today he wasn't overly bad. He was better today than the past couple ones. He battled out there and I think pitched a lot better than it showed."
Edwin Encarnacion's 34th homer of the season in the second, a two-run shot, made it 6-0.
Girardi didn't discount the possibility of fatigue being an issue for Kuroda, and neither did the pitcher. "He's not at 230 innings, but I also know he's not 28 [years old]," Girardi said.
Said Kuroda, "This time of the season, you have a lot of innings in you so there are issues you have to figure out."
He's now at 171 1/3 innings, second-most on the staff behind CC Sabathia's 177 2/3. "But, again, I've experienced this before so I think I'll be able to improve," Kuroda said.
The Yankees' best inning against righthander Todd Redmond (two runs and three hits over 5 2/3 innings) came in the fourth when they scored two runs. But on Mark Reynolds' RBI double to right that made it 7-2, third base coach Rob Thomson waved Alex Rodriguez around third, even though the 38-year-old was running out of gas as he approached the base.
Ryan Goins, the second baseman, took Anthony Gose's throw from center and delivered a strike to Arencibia, who tagged out A-Rod for the inning's final out. "I messed up," Thomson said. "I made a mistake."
On this night, on this two-city trip, he had company.
With David Lennon