Weird inning hurts Kuroda, Yanks back at .500

On the mound at Camden Yards for the Yankees Friday night was the last survivor of their Opening Day rotation, and he gave them what they desperately needed from a starting pitcher — length.

Hiroki Kuroda is still part of the starting unit while former mates Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have all gone off to the disabled list, some of whom not to return in 2014.

The Yankees departed Cleveland with a fatigued bullpen, so the seven innings Kuroda gave them was heaven sent. Only one of those innings was a clinker, but that was enough to let the Orioles tie the score.

It was a strange fourth inning for Kuroda, who blew the 2-0 lead provided by solo home runs from Brian Roberts in the second and Kelly Johnson in the third off Miguel Gonzalez, who recovered to hold the Yankees scoreless with only three more hits through the eighth.

Kuroda gave up only one hit in the fourth, a bad-hop single past Derek Jeter by Adam Jones, which came after the righthander hit Steve Pearce with a pitch leading off the inning. Kuroda then uncorked two wild pitches, one that advanced the runners and another one out later that send Pearce home. A sacrifice fly by Chris Davis tied the score.

The score stayed that way until the 10th inning when Orioles catcher Nick Hundley lined a single to center field off Adam Warren to score Manny Machado, who had led off the inning with a double. Warren followed Dellin Betances, who was brilliant once again with two hitless innings featuring three more strikeouts. The rookie All-Star’s 84 punchouts are the most for any reliever in the majors.

The Yankees’ offense sputtered as it managed only one hit over the last six innings. The Orioles’ 3-2 victory pushed the third-place Yankees five games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East as they fell back to .500 at 46-46.

That the game went into extra innings was not what the Yankees wanted by any means, not just two nights after playing 14 innings in Cleveland. It was the Yankees’ fourth extra-inning game in their past 11 games, which is why the relief squad is so weary.

The Yankees added some pitching Friday by recalling Matt Daley from Triple A Scranton and designating Jim Miller for assignment. They also acquired Jeff Francis from Oakland for cash and a player to be named, but the lefthander was not expected to join the team until Saturday. He could be a candidate to start Sunday night in the opening created by Tanaka’s assignment to the DL because of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Francis, 33, is 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA in a career covering 238 appearances (217 starts) with the Rockies, (2004-10, ’12-13), Royals (2011), Reds (2014) and Athletics (2014). This season he is a combined 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) with the Reds and A’s. He last pitched July 2 for Oakland in a 9-3 loss at Detroit.

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