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BOS@NYY: Kuroda stellar over eight to earn win No. 12

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has seen Hiroki Kuroda transition seamlessly to life in the American League East, with the right-hander posting a 12-8 record and 2.96 ERA in his first 25 starts for New York.

"Pretty incredible," Girardi said. "Look at the lineups you're going to face 18 times a year. You're going to face some other good lineups in other towns, too, who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, so up to this point he's had a tremendous year."

Kuroda's latest outing will come on Saturday night at Progressive Field against the Indians, whose defeat in Friday's series opener was their ninth straight. It also snapped a three-game skid for the Yankees, who moved back above .500 in August and increased their division lead to 3 1/2 games over the Rays.

Kuroda comes in having held the opposition to three runs or fewer in seven straight starts, compiling a 1.39 ERA in that span, with 36 strikeouts and five walks.

"I knew he could really pitch, but he's really taken it to a level that is just outstanding," Girardi said. "Realistically, he could have 16 or 17 [wins]. I mean he's pitched that good where he's had some bad luck where we haven't scored any runs. He's been great."

Girardi added that he didn't "see why [Kuroda] wouldn't be" in the discussion for AL Cy Young Award honors.

Recent outings have not gone quite so well for Indians starter Justin Masterson (9-11, 4.73 ERA), who has produced a 7.62 mark in his last five trips to the mound. On Sunday at Oakland, the righty surrendered seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, getting burned on home runs by Brandon Moss and Coco Crisp.

"They happened to make me pay on the two pitches," Masterson said. "Two out of 101. Ninety-nine of them were the way I wanted them. That's in line with what we want. The final score may not show that, but that's part of the game of baseball."

Yankees: Swisher producing at the top
After a 3-for-4 day on Aug. 7, Nick Swisher was moved to second in the lineup, and the veteran's last 16 starts have come in that spot. The results have been stellar so far.

Swisher powered the New York offense on Friday, going 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a home run and three RBIs. Since Aug. 7, he's hitting .358 with 11 free passes, five doubles and five homers.

Swisher has started in six different lineup spots this season, but mostly sixth (55 games) and second (28 games).

• Pitcher Andy Pettitte played catch on Friday at Progressive Field, the latest step in his recovery from a fractured left fibula. Pettitte reported no problems to Girardi and should ramp up his rehab when the team returns home next week.

Indians: LaPorta begins latest chance to stick with Tribe
Cleveland acquired Matt LaPorta in the CC Sabathia trade in 2008, but thus far, the 27-year-old hasn't been able to grab permanent control of the club's first-base job. His latest opportunity to do so started Friday, when he went 1-for-4 and struck out twice after being called up from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day.

"He's going to get plenty of at-bats the rest of the way," said manager Manny Acta, who will play LaPorta at first and designated hitter. "He deserves, and we deserve, to give him an extended look for the rest of the year."

LaPorta had played 272 games for the Indians over the past four seasons, but only three this year, in June. He's a .237 career hitter, with a .697 OPS and 30 home runs in more than 1,000 plate appearances.

• General manager Chris Antonetti is still optimistic that DH Travis Hafner will return to the lineup at some point this season. A bad back has sidelined the slugger since Aug. 6.

Worth noting
• Kuroda beat the Indians on June 25, holding them to a run in seven innings, with seven strikeouts. One day later, Masterson took the loss, giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings.

• The Yankees are 4-0 this season against the Indians.

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