Mound woes still troubling Yankees

What kind of night was it Friday for Hiroki Kuroda? Well, put it this way; the Angels had a 5-0 lead in the third inning and Mike Trout had not done anything yet. It turned out that Trout never did do anything. The Halos somehow soared to a 13-1 victory despite Trout going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

That is how awful things went for the Yankees. They held Trout in check and still got clobbered. Remember Brennan Boesch, who was one of the record 56 players used by the Yankees last year? Now with the Angels, he pinch hit for Trout in the eighth inning of the lopsided game. That’s something he can tell his grandchildren some day (not that they will believe him).

Kuroda had trouble keeping the ball down and was hurt more by the bottom of the lineup than the top, at least until the fifth inning when Albert Pujols crushed career home run No. 501 to left field. It was Pujols’ ninth home run this month, which tied the club record for homers in April set by Brian Downing in 1986.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the second inning on singles by Ian Stewart and Erick Aybar, a double off the top of the wall in right by Hank Conger, a suicide squeeze bunt by Collin Cowgill and an infield out. The Angels struck again with two out in the third on a two-run home run by Stewart.

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited Kuroda on the mound and likely told him he would need to take one for the team. No one was warming up in a bullpen that was pretty much spent after the recently-completed trip through St. Petersburg and Boston.

Kuroda hung on until the fifth, but the balls kept ringing off Angels bats. One out after Pujols’ bomb, Howie Kendrick doubled to right-center on a hard line drive. Kuroda should have been out of the inning on Aybar’s fly ball into the right field corner, but the usually dependable Carlos Beltran dropped it for a two-base error and a free run.

That ended the night finally for Kuroda, whose line was a bit ugly — 4 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 8 runs (6 earned), 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 1 wild pitch, 2 home runs. Those untidy figures resulted in his ERA rising to 5.28. The righthander also had another night of non-support from his offense. The Yankees did not score while he was in the game and have had two runs or fewer in 12 of his past 17 starts.

The relatively brief outing by Kuroda added to the staff’s current woes with Ivan Nova gone for the season to Tommy John elbow surgery and Michael Pineda on suspension for another eight days. Their absence has taken lefthander Vidal Nuno and righthander David Phelps out of the bullpen for starting assignments, leaving the relief corps a bit short.

Bruce Billings had to give the Yankees some length Friday night to help keep the pen fresh for the rest of the weekend. Matt Daley and Preston Claiborne, who provided relief help this past week, are ineligible for recall from Triple A Scranton at this time because of the 10-day rule that prohibits minor leaguers from merely being shuttled back and forth.

Billings did his job, although he was taken deep by Aybar and Cowgill in the seventh. The righthander had seven strikeouts in four innings and gave the pen a break. Strangely, manager Joe Girardi brought in Shawn Kelley to get the last out of the ninth, but he gave up a run before doing so.

The Yankees did not get on the board until the sixth against lefthander C.J. Wilson, who had allowed only two singles to Brett Gardner before that inning. Beltran helped build a run to offset the one his error cost by following a one-out single to right by Derek Jeter with a double to left. Alfonso Soriano got the Captain home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Unfortunately, it was the only run of the game for the Yankees, who have been outscored, 110-100, despite holding first place in the American League East.

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