ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Yankees brought quite a bit of momentum to the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, they couldn't bring the Blue Jays with them.
"A big opportunity," Joe Girardi said Friday, referring to the upcoming series against the Rays. "They pitch, they hit, they play really good defense and they hit the ball out of the ballpark. So we know they're a very good team and this is a chance for us to make up more ground."
Instead, the Yankees were run into it Friday night, trampled by the Rays, 7-2, in front of 24,239 at Tropicana Field.
Girardi's scouting report was a good one. Before recording the first out of the fifth inning, Hiroki Kuroda (11-9) had allowed four home runs to account for six of the runs. Three of the homers came with two outs. He had not allowed a homer in 572/3 innings since giving up three in Baltimore June 30, and his ERA rose from 2.41 to 2.71.
The four homers and seven runs allowed tied his career worsts. "Really strange," Girardi said of Kuroda's night with the long ball. "He just didn't have his stuff tonight."
Girardi and the Yankees hope CC Sabathia (11-10, 4.83) has his against David Price (7-5, 3.29) Saturday night. "We need him to step up tomorrow, that's what we need him to do," Girardi said.
The Yankees (68-60) came in having won five straight and 10 of 12, including their second four-game sweep of the Blue Jays. They remain six games out of first in the AL East -- the Rays moved into a virtual tie for the lead, percentage points ahead of Boston -- and 31/2 games out in the race for the second wild card.
"Obviously, the team was on a roll, and the fact that I couldn't contribute today to the team is disappointing," Kuroda said. "I didn't have precise control today. That led to bad counts. I got behind and got hit. Hard."
Jose Lobaton (four RBIs), Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist went deep. "It shows he's human," catcher Chris Stewart said of Kuroda, who has allowed 10 earned runs and 20 hits in his last two starts. "His stuff wasn't that bad . . . They didn't miss anything in the zone."
The Rays (73-53), an AL-best 59-35 since May 8 and 32-14 since June 29, received another outstanding outing from Chris Archer (7-5). He wasn't quite as sharp as he had been July 27 at the Stadium, when he pitched a two-hit shutout, but he allowed only four hits and two runs in seven innings.
Archer, 24, is the first rookie to defeat the Yankees three times in one season since the Rangers' Kevin Brown did it in 1989. Archer has allowed three runs, 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings against them in 2013.
The Yankees had five hits, two each by Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nuñez. Alex Rodriguez, coming off a 1-for-10 homestand, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first on Alfonso Soriano's two-out single, but with two on and two outs in the second, Lobaton smacked a first-pitch slider off the rightfield foul pole for a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead. With two outs in the third, Longoria and Joyce hit back-to-back homers to make it 5-1.
After the first inning, the Yankees did not put another runner in scoring position until Gardner led off the sixth with his eighth triple of the season, tying a career high. He scored on Robinson Cano's grounder to second to make it 7-2.
Gardner scored both runs, reached base four times and stole a base, but he was hit on top of his right hand by a pitch in the third before getting doubled off first by Joyce on Curtis Granderson's hit-and-run liner to right. Gardner also was picked off first in the eighth.
"I'm not concerned about it," Gardner said of his hand, which nonetheless likely will be X-rayed before Saturday night's game.
Winning this series is another matter.
"When you lose the first game of a three-game series, it's tough to win the next two," Gardner said. "Especially on the road against a team like the Rays. They've been playing good ball all year. Hopefully, with the way we've been playing recently, we'll get it going tomorrow."