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Kuroda is pounded in Yankees' defeat

So are they the Bronx Bombers or not? The New York Yankees entered play Wednesday night second in the American League with 56 home runs and third in both runs and batting average. But they also came into the opener of a two-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays with a baffling all-or-nothing offense.

The Yankees are 19-4 when they score four runs or more. But they basically can't win when they don't.

The Yankees fell to 1-13 when scoring three runs or less as starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was smoked for three home runs in a 8-1 loss to the Jays at Rogers Centre.

J.P. Arencibia took Kuroda deep for a two-run shot in the second and Edwin Encarnacion belted a three-run drive to dead center in the third to make it 5-0 and that was that. Jose Bautista added a leadoff laser to the second deck in left in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek (3-4) pitched seven innings and combined with two relievers on a three-hitter. Drabek struck out five but lived on a sinker that produced 12 groundball outs.

"This kid has good stuff and when his sinker is that good, it's going to be hard not to hit the ball on the ground," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "You have to make him get the ball up."

The Yankees were in a 7-0 hole before finally scoring in the sixth as Robinson Cano doubled -- becoming the 16th player in franchise history with 300 -- and Mark Teixeira drove him in with his 1,500th career hit, a bad-hop single to right that careened over the head of Encarnacion.

"He was just good tonight," Teixeira said of Drabek. "He was going to win that game. That sinker was really working. You don't want to say 'Halladay' because he's a special pitcher. But getting the groundballs, I felt like [former Jays ace] Roy Halladay was out there tonight because [Drabek] wasn't getting the ball up in the zone at all."

Still, the Yankees' lack of production is alarming. They were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, are 2 for 17 the last two nights -- and just 3 for 52 in their eight May losses.

"We got in a hole and it seemed like every hitter was trying to hit a three-run homer with nobody on," said catcher Russell Martin.

"It's the middle of May and there's a lot of baseball left," countered outfielder Curtis Granderson. "Guys just have to get hot."

Girardi seemed like he was starting to boil on the topic.

"Guys gotta do it. That's the bottom line. We've got to get it done," he said. "There's no panic in here but guys gotta find a way to get a base hit in that situation and see if it becomes contagious and put more pressure on them."

After four straight decent outings, Kuroda fell to 3-5 and his earned-run average ballooned to 4.50 as he continued to find out the American League is not like pitching to a steady diet of San Diego Padres, like he did in Los Angeles. He's 0-4, 6.23 on the road.

"All the home run balls I threw stayed up and that's what happens," said Kuroda. "There's a lot of power hitters [in the AL] and you really can't relax no matter where they are hitting in the lineup. It's really different."

"He was close to getting out of some innings," Girardi said. "He was down in the zone but the mistakes he made really hurt him."

Shortstop Derek Jeter didn't play in the game, the first time he's sat out this season. Girardi said Jeter, batting .366, was going to need a day off in the middle of a stretch of 16 consecutive games and opted for this to be the one.

Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie, meanwhile, did play but went 0 for 4 after getting slapped with a four-game suspension earlier in the day for throwing his helmet off umpire Bill Miller following his ejection in the ninth inning here Tuesday against Tampa Bay. Lawrie is appealing.

The brief two-game set concludes tonight at 7 (YES) with Phil Hughes (3-4) pitching for the Yankees against Toronto rookie Drew Hutchison (2-1).

email: mharrington@buffnews.com