Yankees hit three home runs to back Hiroki Kuroda

Vernon Wells congratulates Robinson Cano on his three-run Vernon Wells congratulates Robinson Cano on his three-run home run during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (April 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Good thing for Derek Jeter that he was in the dugout for Thursday night's game. If he had been back home in Tampa, the Yankees' captain would have missed another plucky performance by the patchwork team making do without him.

Shortly after Jeter made the startling admission that his $12-million mansion has nine bathrooms but is not equipped with the Major League Baseball TV package -- "I know you're laughing, but I really don't,'' he said -- the Yankees smacked three home runs to rescue Hiroki Kuroda in a 5-3 comeback victory over the Blue Jays.

Robinson Cano slugged a go-ahead three-run homer in the third inning for his seventh of the season and 184th of his career, tying Charlie Keller for 18th on the Yankees' all-time list.

Not that Cano needed the help, but Jays starter Mark Buehrle later said he was preoccupied with the on-deck hitter, Vernon Wells, when he missed with that 3-and-1 fastball to Cano.

Why? Wells already had homered in the second inning, and his career success rate (24-for- 48) against the lefthander made Buehrle more concerned about facing Wells with the bases loaded than challenging Cano.

"There aren't too many guys that can protect Robby," Wells said, smiling. "This was one of those rare situations."

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Wells, coming off a two-homer weekend against his former team, made it 3-1 and Francisco Cervelli's homer in the fourth completed the scoring. Buehrle dropped to 1-9 with a 6.19 ERA against the Yankees.

That barrage all but erased a ragged opening for Kuroda, who allowed two homers and three runs to the first eight batters he faced but held on to go six innings and improve to 3-1.

Girardi said Kuroda had virtually nothing to rely on during those early innings. Even though Kuroda's ERA rose from 2.35 to 2.79, the manager had so much admiration for the way he battled that he added, "This might have been his best performance of the year."

The Jays had only one hit after the second inning, Brett Lawrie's infield single off Joba Chamberlain's pitching hand in the seventh. After Chamberlain and David Robertson each threw a scoreless inning, Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts. He is 7-for-7 in save chances this season.

Toronto (9-14) suffered its seventh loss in 10 games, and manager John Gibbons was ejected for the second time in as many days for arguing an overturned call on what became a bunt single for Ben Francisco in the seventh inning. First-base umpire Chad Fairchild called Francisco out, but after the crew huddled, it was decided that Edwin Encarnacion had trapped the ball against the dirt, and Francisco was summoned back from the dugout. Gibbons, understandably, went ballistic and was tossed.

"We saw the ball on the ground, where the ground was assisting the ball staying in the glove while the runner went over the base," crew chief Jeff Kellogg said. "You've got to have secure possession in the glove or the hand."

With Kevin Youkilis sidelined for a fifth straight game because of back stiffness, the Yankees -- already vulnerable against lefties -- appeared even weaker. Before Thursday night, their .557 OPS against lefties was dead last in the American League and their .199 batting average was better than only the Mariners' .189. But their success against Buehrle apparently trumped their lack of success against lefties.

After Kuroda was staggered by a two-out, two-run homer by Encarnacion in the first inning and a solo shot by Lawrie in the second that put him in a 3-0 hole, Wells opened the second with a long home run onto the netting above Monument Park. Wells' sixth homer traveled approximately 420 feet.

After Munenori Kawasaki's two-out double in the second, Kuroda retired 13 of the next 14 Jays, with the only glitch coming on Lyle Overbay's error with two outs in the fourth. "All I thought about was hanging in there," he said. "Pitch by pitch."

Said Girardi: "From a mental standpoint, he was really tough-minded tonight. He found a way."

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