CC Sabathia, the Yankees' ace since 2009, is on the disabled list. Their ace of the last 2½ months, however, is quite healthy.
Hiroki Kuroda, continuing to embarrass those who were convinced he couldn't make the transition to the American League, no-hit the league's top offense for six innings before settling for a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Rangers Tuesday night at the Stadium.
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"Probably our best pitching performance this year,'' Joe Girardi said.
Mark Teixeira agreed. "The kinds of swings and misses he was getting . . . '' he said. "When a good hitting team isn't doing anything against him, you know he's got some special stuff.''
Teixeira saw Kuroda, a Dodger until signing in the offseason with the Yankees, at his best before. On July 7, 2008, in Los Angeles, Teixeira ended Kuroda's perfect-game bid with a leadoff double in the eighth. Kuroda settled for a one-hitter that night against the Braves.
"He had that kind of stuff,'' Teixeira said, meaning at least no-hit, or better.
"It's simple,'' said Russell Martin, who caught Kuroda in L.A., including the one-hitter. "This was the best I've ever seen him.''
Kuroda (11-8, 3.06) struck out five and walked two as the Yankees (69-47) took the first two games of this four-game series against the Rangers (67-48).
The 37-year-old righthander has thrown at least seven innings in 11 of his last 14 starts since May 27, going 8-2 in that span. He was 3-6 with a 4.56 ERA after his first nine starts.
"He's been tremendous for us,'' Girardi said of Kuroda's importance as others in the rotation have battled injury and, at times, slumps.
Elvis Andrus broke up Kuroda's no-hit bid in the seventh, leading off by swinging at the first pitch and grounding it up the middle. Jayson Nix, starting because Derek Jeter was the DH, made a diving stop to his left but had no chance at Andrus. The crowd gave Kuroda a long and loud standing ovation.
"I felt bad that I let down all the fans who were expecting me to throw a no-hitter, but I was able to regroup myself and focus on every pitch that I threw toward the end,'' Kuroda said through his translator. "I was just glad we were able to win.''
Josh Hamilton followed with a fly ball to right, deep enough to allow Andrus to take second. Kuroda struck out Adrian Beltre, but his first delivery to Nelson Cruz was a wild pitch that moved Beltre to third. Two pitches later, Cruz grounded out, one of 16 groundouts for the Rangers.
"Good sinker, good slider, threw it when he wanted,'' said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose team was shut out for only the third time this season.
Nick Swisher broke the tie with a two-run homer off reliever Alexi Ogandi with one out in the seventh. It was Swisher's 16th homer and second in as many nights. He drove in Jeter, who had two hits to increase his total to an AL-best 156.
Teixeira followed Swisher with his 23rd homer, the ninth time the Yankees have gone back to back, surpassing their total from last year (eight).
Girardi said it was during the sixth inning when he started hearing the buzz of the crowd anticipating a historic night might happen.
Almost, but not quite.
"He's a tough guy who likes big games,'' Martin said of Kuroda. "He's a tough competitor who enjoys the spotlight.''
Notes & quotes: Alex Rodriguez (left fifth metacarpal fracture) ran in the outfield during BP and again did long-toss drills -- with a football, then with a baseball -- and headed inside for a follow-up X-ray. After the game, Girardi said the X-ray showed A-Rod's hand is better, the brace he's been wearing will be coming off and he will begin strengthening exercises . . . Girardi said Derek Lowe, who threw 44 pitches in four scoreless innings in his Yankees debut Monday, would be unavailable the next two games and "I'll check with him after that." Physically, he said of Lowe, "he's great."