In a revolving-door season, Joe Girardi is grateful he has to spend little time worrying about Hiroki Kuroda.
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There are those moments, though, that the New York Yankees’ manager has to remind himself the Japanese ace is not one of the many young faces in his clubhouse.
Kuroda gave another steady performance Friday night, pitching two-hit ball for eight dominant innings and leading the Yankees to one more victory over Mark Buehrle and the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0 to end a two-game skid.
”One thing we do pay attention to is some of his pitch counts because he’s not 25 either, but he goes out there and sometimes he acts like he is,” Girardi said. ”So we have to make sure we don’t get confused and forget how old he is and that we take care of him; we’re responsible with him and make sure he can bounce back every start because that’s what you want.”
And what they desperately need right now.
With lefty Andy Pettitte joining fellow starter Ivan Nova on to the disabled list earlier Friday, two of the 13 pinstriped players sidelined with injuries this season, the Yankees can’t take any risks with Kuroda. And that is why Girardi didn’t hesitate to lift the 38-year-old after the eighth and 109 pitches.
Kuroda (6-2) struck out five and walked one in cooling off a club that had scored 33 runs in its previous three games and had won a season-high four in a row.
The Yankees’ most consistent starter since the start of last season, Kuroda won for the fourth time in five starts. He is 2-0 in three starts against the Blue Jays this year — matching up each time against Buehrle (1-3) — allowing four runs in 21 1/3 innings.
Preston Claiborne finished the four-hitter.
”In the first inning I knew this was going to be a good night for us,” rookie catcher Austin Romine said.
Romine and Brett Gardner had run-scoring hits, Robinson Cano hit an RBI grounder and Jayson Nix had two sacrifice flies in dropping Buehrle to 1-10 in 15 starts against the Yankees. The left-hander hasn’t beaten New York since April 10, 2004, when he was with the Chicago White Sox.
The AL East-leading Yankees defeated last-place Toronto for the fifth consecutive time this season in New York and for the seventh time in eight games overall.
Kuroda gave up a leadoff double to Melky Cabrera and didn’t allow another hit until Edwin Encarnacion’s one-out single in the seventh. Between the two hits, Kuroda faced the minimum, picking off Munenori Kawasaki after a third-inning walk.
”All my pitches were pretty good,” Kuroda said. ”Felt good, especially in the first inning when I struck out (Jose) Bautista and Encarnacion.”
Kuroda helped himself get out of the first inning unscathed by snaring J.P. Arencibia’s liner. Fans cheered and laughed at the fortunate catch when the replay of Kuroda sticking out his glove for the ball was shown on the video board in center field. Kuroda also made a nice play for the first out of the second, bounding off the mound to field Adam Lind’s tapper.
Gardner led off the bottom of the first with a triple and scored on Cano’s grounder to second. Buehrle settled down, allowing only Nix’s third-inning walk before rookie David Adams singled leading off the fifth.
”When you run into hot pitching like that, you try to shut them down as long as you can,” Buehrle said.
Romine singled with one out and Gardner walked to load the bases before Nix’s fly to left made it 2-0.
Aaron Loup relieved Buehrle after the first three batters in the seventh had hits, including an RBI double by Romine. Gardner slapped an opposite-field single past diving third baseman Brett Lawrie with the infield in, and Nix followed with a long fly to center that upped the lead to five runs.
”Buehrle was rolling along, too,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. ”He had only given up two runs and was matching (Kuroda) there and kept us in the game, and then they exploded on us late there. But I thought he did a nice job as well.”
Buehrle yielded five runs and six hits in six-plus innings. He walked three and struck out four.
RHP Joba Chamberlain (right oblique strain) played long toss at Yankee Stadium. He is scheduled for a bullpen session Sunday. … The Yankees recalled Vidal Nuno from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Blue Jays RHP Josh Johnson (triceps) threw a side session. Gibbons said he felt good. He will go to the Blue Jays’ complex in Dunedin, Fla., next week and will make a minor league rehab start. … Blue Jays RHP Dustin McGowan (60-day DL, shoulder) is going to move to Triple-A Buffalo to continue his rehab. He was with Class-A Dunedin. … RHP Brandon Morrow (1-2), who had his start Wednesday pushed back because of back and neck issues, is scheduled to get the ball against the Yankees Saturday. RHP David Phelps (1-2) is set to start for New York.