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TEX@NYY: Kuroda wins 11th with two-hit masterpiece

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira knows when Hiroki Kuroda is almost good enough to have the game of his life.

On July 7, 2008, Kuroda was working on a perfect game in Los Angeles as a member of the Dodgers when Teixeira, then with the Braves, broke up Kuroda's chance at history with an eighth-inning double.

On Tuesday night, Teixeira had a chance to help Kuroda make a run at the record books as the right-hander's teammate. Kuroda carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a leadoff single to Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, but Teixeira and manager Joe Girardi agreed -- the righty's two-hit shutout to lead New York past the Rangers, 3-0, was the most dominant performance by a Yankees starter this season.

Kuroda had turned in solid work in his previous three starts, but a lack of run support left him without a winning decision. Kuroda again did all he could to get back in the win column, and this time, his teammates would support him. Nick Swisher and Teixeira hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning, giving Kuroda his first win since July 29.

"He had that kind of stuff tonight," Teixeira said. "We've seen him be really good. He's had an incredible season so far for us, but the kinds of swings and misses he was getting -- nubbers off the end of the bat, popups -- when a good hitting team like that isn't doing anything against you, you know you have some special stuff."

Until the seventh inning, that special stuff helped Kuroda mow down 15 of 16 hitters and allow just one ball out of the infield over the first six innings.

While he didn't quite reach the record books, Kuroda delivered his best start since joining the Yankees as a free agent during the offseason, recording his 11th win of the season. The righty finished with five strikeouts and two walks in his first nine-inning complete game as an American League hurler.

Kuroda said that in the sixth inning, he started to hear the crowd recognize that he hadn't allowed a hit. After Andrus broke up his no-hit bid, Kuroda got a standing ovation from the crowd. He responded to the fans' gesture by stranding Andrus at third and not allowing another baserunner to get past first the rest of the night.

"I feel bad that I let down all the fans that were expecting me to throw a no-hitter, but I was able to regroup myself and focus on every pitch that I threw toward the end," Kuroda said through translator Kenji Nimura. "I'm just glad we were able to win."

"We show up today, and we can't do nothing," Swisher said. "Tex and I kind of turned it around, and we were able to put some runs on the board. But Hiro did a tremendous job. Tonight was his night."

It could have easily been Texas starter Matt Harrison's night. New York advanced runners into scoring position early with two-out rallies, but both chances didn't produce a run. Jayson Nix struck out to close the second inning with runners on first and second, and Curtis Granderson left the bases loaded in the third when he flied out to center.

Until the seventh, those were the two best opportunities the Yankees got off Harrison, who turned in an impressive performance of his own. The lefty allowed just five hits before being lifted in the seventh with Derek Jeter on first and one out. The Rangers then turned to Alexi Ogando to finish the inning, but the right-hander serve up the costly homers, leaving Harrison on the hook for Jeter's run.

"[Harrison] was pitching lights-out," Swisher said. "I don't know what else to tell you. He's a completely different pitcher than I've seen the last few years. I'll tip my hat to him tonight."

But Kuroda would outlast Harrison, moving past the Andrus hit, composing himself and using his slider and splitter to get ground-ball outs to keep his pitch count low enough for Girardi to feel comfortable keeping his starter in for the ninth inning. Kuroda credited Yankees catcher Russell Martin -- who caught Kuroda's one-hit gem in 2008 -- for calling effective locations. The rest was simple: Kuroda just had to hit his spots all night.

"He was throwing the ball just enough out of the zone where it looked like a strike," Texas slugger Josh Hamilton said. "We just expanded the zone, plus knowing he has 94-95 [mph] in his back pocket whenever he wants it makes it even tougher. He did a good job mixing it up."

With two pace-setting starters on the hill, one would expect nothing less from the teams with the two strongest records in the AL. But on Tuesday, the Yankees emerged victorious for the sixth time in their last seven games, moving to two games ahead of Texas for the best record in the AL thanks in large part to Kuroda's gem.

"He's probably been overall our most consistent guy," Martin said. "Every fifth day when he goes out there, you know you're going to have a chance to win the ballgame. Pretty much even games when he's gotten no-decisions or losses, it feels like we've had opportunities to win games."

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