More than a month has passed since Hiroki Kuroda last pitched at home for the New York Yankees - and much has changed since.
The veteran owns the best home ERA in the AL heading into Monday night's opener of a four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels.
Kuroda (10-7, 2.45 ERA) hasn't pitched in Yankee Stadium since throwing five innings in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on July 12. He is 6-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 10 starts in the Bronx.
New York (59-57) was within 1 1/2 games of the second AL wild card at that point, but that deficit is now seven. Alex Rodriguez has also returned, going 5 for 19 in five games and hitting his first home run since coming back in a 5-4 victory over Detroit on Sunday.
Kuroda enters with a home scoreless innings streak of 13 2-3 and has gone 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in his last four outings - all on the road. He yielded three runs over seven innings of a 3-2 defeat to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
The right-hander has been plagued by one of the worst run support averages in baseball at 3.38.
"He has pitched extremely well and he should have a lot more than 10 wins," manager Joe Girardi said.
Kuroda is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five career starts against Los Angeles (53-63), with Mike Trout going 2 for 4 against him.
Trout is a career .391 hitter in 11 games against New York, going 7 for 14 with four doubles and four stolen bases as the Angels lost two of three last season at Yankee Stadium. He was 5 for 10 with five walks as Los Angeles took two of three at home from the Yankees from June 14-16.
The Angels will try to recover from Sunday's 6-5 loss at Cleveland in which they blew a five-run lead in the sixth inning. They missed a chance to sweep a three-game set and have dropped 11 of 16.
''If we're going to have success, we have to hold leads,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''It does point to a weakness on our ballclub.''
Los Angeles suffered its fourth loss after leading by five-plus runs in 2013, tying Colorado and Tampa Bay for most in the majors.
Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20) will make his fourth straight start since replacing 13-game loser Joe Blanton in the rotation July 27. Richards has gone 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in the three outings, faring better than he did in a four-start stint in April in which he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA.
The right-hander returns to the site of his major league debut Aug. 10, 2011. He gave up six runs over five innings with Curtis Granderson homering twice against him in a 9-3 defeat.
Granderson is struggling during an injury-plagued season, going 3 for 20 during a seven-game home run drought. Robinson Cano has homered once in his last 31 home games after he hit 22 in 80 games in the Bronx in 2012.
The Yankees may not feel safe with a lead Monday since closer Mariano Rivera blew a third straight save for the first time in his illustrious career Sunday, allowing two solo homers in the ninth. Brett Gardner allowed New York to recover with a winning homer in the bottom half.
"Mo's bailed us out a few times," Gardner said. "It didn't matter if it was me or somebody else, we just needed to get a win today and I'm glad we made it happen."