Yanks end bumpy trip on upbeat note

So when is a 2-3 trip considered good? When it starts out 0-3.

That was the situation with the Yankees at the end of a somewhat bumpy ride through Baltimore and St. Petersburg. They finished in an upbeat fashion Sunday with a 4-2 victory that included a semblance of a sustained offense and an encouraging outing by Hiroki Kuroda.

The victory also lifted the Yankees back into second place in the American League East, albeit a distant second since they trail the first-place Orioles by seven games. The Yanks are also 3 1/2 games behind in the chase for the second wild-card berth.

Kuroda was working on extra rest, which is something Yankees manager Joe Girardi intends to do as often as he can in the season’s final six weeks to prevent the fade the Japanese righthander sustained in the second half of the 2013 season. He certainly seemed to benefit from the extra time off.

Never before at his best against the Rays (2-4, 6.07 ERA) or at Tropicana Field (1-2, 6.94 ERA), Kuroda was in first-half form with 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs and four hits. Pitching to contact (one walk, one strikeout), Kuroda retired 17 batters in a row from the first through the sixth innings.

Kuroda gave up a run in the first inning, and that run looked quite large when Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson, who has pitched only since last month after undergoing arthroscopic right elbow surgery in January, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and got the first two out then rather easily.

A walk to Stephen Drew was the beginning of a sloppy inning for Hellickson, his last in the game, as the Yankees strung together four hits — a double by Martin Prado, a two-run single by Brett Gardner that gave the Yankees the lead, followed by singles by Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury resulting in another run. The hit by Ellsbury was his only one on the trip in 20 at-bats but came at a good time. Prado also had a superlative game defensively at second base with eight assists and one putout.

Evan Longoria’s RBI single in the seventh off a tiring Kuroda cut the Yanks’ lead to 3-2, but Shawn Kelley stranded a runner at third before turning matters over to Dellin Betances in the eighth and David Robertson (33rd save) in the ninth, which has become a can’t-miss tandem.

Mark Teixeira made it 4-2 in the eighth with his 20th home run of the season and career No. 361, which tied him with Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list. Nice company that.

So the trip’s finish was far better than the start. The Yankees’ offense continues to be a concern. They averaged merely 2.6 runs per game on the trip and have been outscored by 37 runs this season.

But they come home with some momentum and have a chance to make some headway on the upcoming homestand against the also-ran Astros and White Sox.

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