NEW YORK -- Hiroki Kuroda recovered from a slow start to pitch six innings, and the New York Yankees opened a four-game series with a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Kuroda (3-1) allowed three runs and six hits, but it was almost as if he pitched in two different games. He gave up all the runs and hits in the opening two innings, when Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie hit home runs.
Then something clicked and Kuroda began mowing down the Blue Jays in a manner similar to his previous two starts, when he allowed one run and eight hits with 12 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.
After Lawrie's home run leading off the second, Kuroda allowed just two baserunners the rest of the way. He gave up a two-out double to Munenori Kawaski in the second, and Maicer Izturis reached on a two-out error in the fourth, and that was it.
Kuroda retired the side in the fifth and sixth, and his outing ended with a swinging strikeout by Colby Rasmus.
Joba Chamberlain allowed a hit in a scoreless seventh, David Robertson tossed a hitless eighth, and Mariano Rivera retired the side in the ninth for his seventh save of the season.
Meanwhile, the Yankees gradually got to Mark Buehrle (1-1). The left-hander lost his seventh straight decision to New York spanning 10 starts, as he allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Buehrle gave up a season-worst three home runs. Former Blue Jay Vernon Wells hit a solo shot in the second, Robinson Cano hit a three-run home run in the third and Francisco Cervelli added a solo blast in the fourth.
Toronto manager John Gibbons was tossed in the seventh by second base umpire Jeff Kellogg for arguing a reversed call on a ball hit by Ben Francisco. Francisco was initially called out on a groundout to third, but replays showed that Lawrie's throw popped out of Encarnacion's glove, and the call was overturned.
The Blue Jays had four hits in the first inning off Kuroda and took a 2-0 lead when Encarnacion hit a first-pitch sinker just over the left field wall. It might have been a grand slam, but Kawasaki was erased on a double play before Jose Bautista walked.
Toronto made it 3-0 when Lawrie hit a 3-and-1 sinker into the right field seats, but the Yankees countered with a home run of their own when Wells led off the second with his sixth home run, a long drive to straightaway center.
The Yankees had first and second with two outs in the third and cashed in when Cano hit a 3-and-1 fastball into the right-field seats for his seventh home run, giving the New York a 4-3 lead.
Toronto put the tying run on with two outs in the fourth when Lyle Overbay bobbled Izturis' ground ball. Overbay redeemed himself by making a leaping catch of Rajai Davis' sharp liner.
New York increased its lead to 5-3 with another home run, this time from Cervelli, who sent a full-count changeup into the left field seats.
NOTES: New York INF Kevin Youkilis sat out with a back injury, and he is considered day-to-day. Youkilis has not played since last Saturday in Toronto, and the Yankees were hoping to get him back, but he was unable to get through a workout in the batting cage. "He's just not ready," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought it would be today. So hopefully it's tomorrow. We'll just go day by day." ... Toronto 1B/DH Adam Lind was placed on paternity leave, and RHP Brad Lincoln was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. ... Bautista played his first game at Yankee Stadium since suffering a freak wrist injury last July while fouling a pitch of against RHP David Robertson.