How could Hiroki Kuroda, a solid pitcher that has spent seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the Yankees and Dodgers and have a career 3.45 ERA, be a below-.500 pitcher? Easy, he never gets any run support.
That was the case again on Sunday Kuroda pitched well, giving up just two runs over seven innings, but took the 74th loss of his career when the Yankees fell to the Kansas City Royals, 2-1, for their 6th loss in the past eight games, falling to .500 (31-31) on the season.
The Yankees as a team struck out 11 times, and missed out on countless scoring chances -- going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position -- as the offense continues to play the "let's not score any runs today" game.
The Yankees started off the game by stranding a pair of runners on base after Brett Gardner singled and Carlos Beltran walked. Then in the 2nd inning, the Bombers loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to capitalize when Brian Roberts struck out, Gardner grounded into a 3-2 fielder's choice at the plate, and Derek Jeter struck out to end the inning.
After his offense squandered an awfully good chance to put runs on the board, Kuroda gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning, both with two outs, that put the Royals up 2-0.
Salvador Perez singled ahead of Lorenzo Cain, who doubled to make it a 1-0 game. Mike Moustakas followed with a single that extended the lead to 2-0.
But Kuroda settled down after that and took control of the game, limiting the Royals to just one hit over the next five innings. After going 6 2/3 in his last start, Kuroda made it through seven innings for the second time this season, and finished off the 7th having retired 11 straight Kansas City hitters. He only gave up two runs on five hits, while walking two and striking out three on 90 pitches. Maybe he's starting to turn things around this season after getting off to a slow start.
It took the Yankees awhile to get on the board against Jame Shields, who wasn't overly impressive today. The Yanks made him work, throwing 49 pitches in the first two innings.
Yangervis Solarte doubled off of Shields in the 6th, moved to third base on a past ball, then scored on a groundout to the shortstop by Ichiro, cutting the Royals' lead to 2-1.
Shields was chased after just six inning because his pitch-count had risen to 110 pitches. He gave up one run on six hits, walked two and struck out eight.
After Adam Warren worked a quick 8th inning, setting down the Royals in order, the Yankees came close to tying the game in the 9th. Ichiro singled to leadoff, moved to second base on a wild pitch, then to third on a Brian Roberts sac-fly, but Mark Teixeira struck out and Gardner struck out to end the game.
The Yankees and Royals wrap up this four-game series tomorrow night at 8:10 pm ET when Vidal Nuno takes the mound, facing off against Jason Vargas.