Roberts’ homer comes too late for Kuroda

This was the Hiroki Kuroda we have come to know and love but had not seen much of lately. The Japanese righthander had his best outing of the season Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. It was an absolute shame that he ended up with a no-decision and remains winless on the road for the past 10 months.

On the plus side, the Yankees did win the game, thanks to a home run to right field by Brian Roberts off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri with two out in the top of the ninth inning. Roberts had a strong night at the plate with an RBI single in a two-run fifth inning.

The Yankees gave Kuroda a 3-2 lead in the eighth, and the way he was pitching it looked as if it might hold up. He got the first two outs in the bottom half of that inning but then lost a nine-pitch at-bat to Mike Trout, who smoked a drive halfway up the scoreboard in right field and legged it out for a triple.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to Shawn Kelley at that point to face Albert Pujols. Kelley had hoped to bounce back from his Monday night loss when he walked four batters and gave up three runs. Pujols had other ideas, however, and lined a 3-2 pitch into left-center field for a single that scored Trout with the tying run.

That was the only earned run the Angels got off Kuroda, who gave up five hits, did not walk a batter (he did hit one) and struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings, his longest stint this season. Los Angeles’ two runs in the third were set up by a botched play by the Yankees on a sacrifice bunt.

One of the drawbacks to these over-shift defenses employe more often in recent years is that it can be exposed on bunt plays. Bunts are not as common in the American League because of the designated hitter, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose playing career was with the Dodgers in the National League, likes to rely on small ball.

Roberts was too close to second base to cover first base as Mark Teixeira charged to field a bunt by Colin Cowgill that went to the left side. Tex tried to get back to first as third baseman Yangervis Solarte fielded the ball but could not make it in time and Solarte’s throw sailed past him for an error that put runners on second and third with none out. Both scored on sacrifice flies by Erick Aybar and Trout.

The Yankees finally got to C.J. Wilson in the fifth on successive singles by Solarte, Brett Gardner and Roberts with the second run scoring as Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a double play. A two-out, RBI single in the eighth by Alfonso Soriano put the Yankees ahead, but Kuroda could not get that third out in the bottom half.

Ironically, the winning decision went to Kelley, who had allowed the tying run. David Robertson wrapped up the victory nicely for his fifth save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

The good news in addition to Roberts’ two big RBI and first home run with the Yankees was the return to form of Kuroda.

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