Yanks’ pitching still on a roll

The recent success by Yankees pitchers had a carryover effect for Hiroki Kuroda in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Pirates at Yankee Stadium. David Robertson’s four-out save (No. 8) preserved the first victory in six starts since April 12 for Kuroda, who was a frequent winner over Pittsburgh in his years with the Dodgers but made his first start against the Bucs since joining the Yankees three years ago.

The victory improved Kuroda’s career mark against the Pirates to 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Those are the most victories for him against one team except for the Padres. The righthander has an 8-4 career mark against San Diego.

Kuroda was touched for a couple of home runs among six hits he gave up and allowed three earned runs with two walks and seven strikeouts in a formidable effort that stretched the Yankees’ winning streak to four games during which the pitching staff has combined for a 1.00 ERA. The starters’ ERA over that stretch is 1.09 in 24 2/3 innings.

After giving up a first-inning run on a solo homer to Neal Walker, the Yankees succeeded in giving Kuroda a bit of a cushion by striking for three runs in the bottom of the first against Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who has a 0-6 record despite a 3.45 ERA. The first five batters reached base against Morton and the first three scored.

The Yanks loaded the bases without a ball leaving the infield as Brett Gardner walked, Derek Jeter beat out a bunt single and Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch. Mark Teixeira kept up his productive hitting with a single to center field for two runs. A single to center through the shift by Brian McCann brought in another run.

Kuroda worked out of a jam in the fourth when a walk, an infield single and a passed ball by McCann put runners on second and third with one out. Kuroda got a called third strike past Starling Marte before Ike Davis walked to load the bases. Kuroda retired Gaby Sanchez on a grounder to shortstop to end the threat.

Kuroda was not as fortunate with the Pirates’ other Sanchez, Tony, who led off the fifth with a home run. Clint Barmes also hit the ball hard with an opposite-field double to left. He scored one out later on Walker’s hard liner off a leaping third baseman Kelly Johnson’s glove for a single that moved the Bucs within a run. Kuroda retired Andrew McCutchen on a fielder’s choice and struck out Pedro Alvarez on a wicked splitter and then pitched a hitless sixth with two strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense went into slumber. Morton gave up one hit over a 17-batter stretch from the second inning through the seventh and picked off the one who reached base on a single, Zoilo Almonte, for the third out of the fourth.

That made the outs precious for the Yankees’ bullpen. Matt Daley, Matt Thornton and Adam Warren negotiated their way through the seventh and two outs into the eighth. With a runner at second base and two out in the eighth, Robertson came on and struck out Marte. D-Rob added two more punchouts in a hitless ninth to get a long day off to a good start.

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