As the veteran has struggled to find that form in recent weeks, his teammates may need to pick him up in the opener of this pivotal series against the archrival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night.
The Yankees (79-68) took the final three games of their four-game set at Baltimore ahead of their trip to Fenway, pushing the Orioles down the wild-card standings while pulling themselves within one game of fellow divisional nemesis Tampa Bay for the second AL spot. New York posted a 6-5 victory Thursday, with Brendan Ryan scoring the go-ahead run in the ninth on a wild pitch by Baltimore closer Jim Johnson ."It's important," manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to continue to win and we need to continue to take series if we want to play in October."
Equally important would be getting Kuroda (11-10, 2.99 ERA) right. He had a seven-start stretch in which he went 4-1 with a 0.94 ERA, defeating counterpart John Lackey and the Red Sox at Fenway on July 20 during that run.
Boston, though, triggered Kuroda's current five-start winless stretch by reaching him for five runs and a career-worst 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings in a 5-1 loss at Fenway on Aug. 17. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.52 ERA during his swoon but did show some improvement Sunday versus the Red Sox, allowing two runs and five hits - grinding through six innings with 117 pitches - before leaving without a decision in a 4-3 walkoff win.
"At this stage of the season, fatigue really doesn't matter," Kuroda told the team's official website. "You have to treat it as if this is going to be your last outing."
Overall, Kuroda is 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox this year, splitting two outings versus Lackey (9-12, 3.48).
One player who may not be able to help Kuroda is leadoff hitter Brett Gardner , who left Friday in the first inning due to a strained oblique. He will undergo an MRI and his status is uncertain."I've never had an oblique issue before," said Gardner, 11 for 31 lifetime against Lackey. "The best thing to do is just wait until (Friday) and see what the MRI says. That'll paint a much clearer picture."
Lackey (9-12, 3.48), who avenged his loss to Kuroda in the Aug. 17 win, labored to another victory over New York on Saturday - giving up a season-high seven runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings in a 13-9 final. He is 10-10 with a 4.81 ERA lifetime versus the Yankees, including a 5-3 mark in 10 starts with Boston.
The Red Sox (89-59) continued their march to the AL East title by taking two of three from the Rays, though they were denied a sweep with Thursday's 4-3 defeat. Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered, but Boston was content with a 5-2 road trip."You try and win every series. That's the No. 1 goal, and we lost tonight but we took a good two out of three," Saltalamacchia said. "So we'll go home against New York and worry about Game 1, and see what happens after that."
Kuroda may have some worries facing David Ortiz , who is 7 for 12 with a homer and three doubles in their matchups this year.
Alex Rodriguez , who is 9 for 25 with two homers and four doubles in his last seven games, has been a feast-or-famine hitter versus Lackey. Despite a .183 average and 26 strikeouts in 60 at-bats, five of his 11 hits off the right-hander have been homers.
Rodriguez's batting average versus Lackey is his lowest of the 30 pitchers he's faced at least 45 times.
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||0||.000||0||0||0||0||0||1.000||1.000||.000|
|New York Yankees|
|September 12, 2013||Brett Gardner||Day-to-Day||Left game - Oblique|
|September 08, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Left ankle soreness|
|September 08, 2013||Chris Stewart||Day-to-Day||Left game - left foot contusion|
|September 07, 2013||Vidal Nuno||60-Day DL||Strained left groin|
|September 07, 2013||Derek Jeter||Day-to-Day||Left ankle|
|September 06, 2013||Corban Joseph||60-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
BOSTON (AP) -- The big hits just seem to keep on coming for the streaking Boston Red Sox.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh inning, Koji Uehara closed with another perfect inning and the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 8-4 Friday night.
Returning to Fenway Park after winning five of seven games on the road against the Yankees and Tampa Bay - both now lagging far back in the AL East - Boston rebounded after blowing an early 4-0 lead.
It's been a complete turnaround from last year's dismal 69-win team. Boston leads the second-place Rays by 8 1/2 games.
"That's what is making this season fun," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "You're not talking about a team that depends on one guy. I know that everybody has to be careful with myself, but there are plenty of guys."
Ortiz and Stephen Drew each doubled twice as the Red Sox won for the 15th time in 19 games. Saltalamacchia also doubled and scored twice.
Shane Victorino opened the seventh with a single off Hiroki Kuroda . Reliever Cesar Cabral hit Ortiz with a pinch and Preston Claiborne walked pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes .
After Daniel Nava struck out, Saltalamacchia hit his third career slam, connecting off Claiborne for a drive over Boston's bullpen into the right-field seats.
Saltalamacchia. who missed about a week with a sore back, simply was just looking for a pitch he could lift to get the go-ahead run home.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit with a runner on third," he said. "Vic, at third, a fast guy, I knew if I'd get into the air, he'll be able to score. I saw how he worked Nava before me."
Boston manager John Farrell can see the difference in Saltalamaccia after some time off.
"His back's better," he said. "It shows in his swing."
Uehara breezed through the ninth. He's retired 37 straight batters, the longest streak by a reliever since Bobby Jenks of the White Sox set down 41 in a row in 2007.
Robinson Cano went 4 for 4 with three doubles and two RBIs for New York, which fell to two games behind Tampa Bay for the final AL wild-card spot after the Rays beat Minnesota 3-0.
"It's unfortunate," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We gave them some free baserunners and then you get the big hit by Saltalamacchia, but I love the way our guys battled back. Never thought Kuroda would be there in the seventh the way everything started for him."
Brendan Ryan , acquired from Seattle on Tuesday for a player to be named, hit his first homer with the Yankees.
New York had won three in a row. Last weekend, Boston took three of four games at Yankee Stadium.
"They've got a very good team over there," Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said. "They're a handful right now."
Brandon Workman (6-3) got the win, retiring one batter.
The Red Sox scored four times in the first off Kuroda (11-11), but the Yankees came back to tie it.
Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, the Yankees chased Boston starter John Lackey and tied it Cano's bases-loaded, two-run double off reliever Craig Breslow . New York had runners on second and third, but Workman got Alfonso Soriano on a bouncer to third.
The Red Sox took a quick 4-0 lead. Dustin Pedroia singled, Ortiz doubled and Mike Carp had an RBI grounder.
Nava singled home a run and Drew hit a two-run double off the Green Monster, just inside the foul line.
With pitchers warming in the bullpen behind him, Kuroda looked as if he was on the verge of being pulled when Boston threatened in the second and third. The 38-year-old right-hander responded by escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second and held the Red Sox scoreless after a leadoff double the next inning.
Kuroda allowed five runs, eight hits, walked two and fanned two in six-plus innings. He's 0-4 with a 6.69 ERA in his last six starts.
Lackey gave up four runs on seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Ryan homered into the first row of seats above the Monster, cutting it to 4-1 in the third.
Lyle Overbay 's sacrifice fly made it 4-2 in the sixth.
NOTES: There was a brief delay in the seventh when third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez walked down the left-field line and had security eject a fan for throwing something on the field. ... Farrell said CF Jacoby Ellsbury , who missed his seventh straight game with a fractured bone in his right foot, started some non-baseball activities. "He'll come out of the boot and into the pool," Farrell said. The club hopes Ellsbury will be back late in the regular season, but Farrell said "still no date of return." ... Farrell also said RHP Jake Peavy was fine after getting grazed on the right leg by a line drive in Thursday's loss at Tampa Bay. ... Girardi said C Austin Romine "took some swings and felt better." He sustained a concussion on Tuesday. ... CC Sabathia (13-12, 4.82 ERA) is slated to face Boston's Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86 ERA) on Saturday. ... The Red Sox opened their final homestand of the season. They also face Baltimore and Toronto for three games apiece. ... New York 2B Cano made a nice over-the-shoulder grab on Will Middlebrooks ' pop to short right. ... Rodriguez said his sore hamstring is getting better and he might be ready to play third again on Tuesday.