Kuroda a victim of non-support

If not for Dexter Fowler, Hiroki Kuroda would have had an excellent chance to notch a victory that has been a long time coming. Fowler has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Astros in the Yankees’ season-opening series at Houston and was particularly rough on Kuroda in Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss.

Kuroda was stung early when Fowler drove a 1-0 pitch to right-center for a home run. Fowler, who had two doubles in Tuesday night’s 6-2 Astros victory, attacked Kuroda again in the third inning with a one-out triple to right-center. First baseman Mark Teixeira couldn’t handle Robbie Grossman’s hard smash, and Fowler scored on the error.

Apart from those incidents, Kuroda had a strong outing. While Fowler had 2-for-3 against the Japanese righthander, the rest of the Houston batting order combined to go 1-for-18 with one walk and four strikeouts off Kuroda. The one hit was a triple by Grossman with one out in the sixth, but Kuroda stranded him at third by setting down the next two hitters on shallow fly balls.

The Yankees’ offense let Kuroda down, however, which is nothing new. Kuroda had the poorest offensive support for any American League starter in 2013, and that pattern continued Wednesday night. The Yankees failed to score in Kuroda’s six innings. The inning Kuroda left the game the Yanks finally got on the board, albeit through a double-play grounder.

After the Astros regained a two-run lead on Matt Dominquez’s solo home run off David Phelps in the seventh, the Yankees posed a major threat in the eighth when Carlos Beltran doubled to left against an over-shift to lead off the inning against Matt Albers. The righthander worked out of it powerfully with strikeouts of Brian McCann, Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano.

The Yankees actually outhit Houston, 7-4, with new second baseman Brian Roberts going 3-for-4, but none of their hits came with runners in scoring position; they were 0-for-10 in those situations and are now 2-for-18 (.111) in the clutch thus far.

The loss marked the first in five career decisions against the Astros for Kuroda, who has a 1.56 career ERA against Houston in 57 2/3 innings. It marked the seventh consecutive road loss and ninth consecutive defeat overall for Kuroda going back to last year.

If Yankees fans expected a cakewalk by starting the season at Houston, they have been sadly mistaken.

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