NEW YORK -- A month ago, Hiroki Kuroda's name was being thrust into the American League Cy Young Award conversation. Why wouldn't it be? He had gone 3-0 with a 0.55 ERA in five July starts, lowering his ERA to an AL-best 2.38.
But August was not kind to the New York Yankees right-hander, who stumbled badly to the tune of 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA, a five-start stretch that not only damaged his Cy Young candidacy, but may have also put a major dent in the Yankees' postseason hopes.
Kuroda allowed seven runs (five earned) over five innings in a lopsided loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday, giving up nine or more hits in a game for the fourth time in his last five starts after not giving up more than eight in any of his first 22 outings.
"As a starter, I think you take all of your 30-something starts as important as any starts," Kuroda said through his translator. "Especially after July, where you feel like you want to be better at your pitches. At the same time, I feel like you take it one game at a time. Every start is important, but to not have my stuff at this stage of the season is pretty frustrating."
Kuroda gave up a home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the loss, the fifth homer he allowed over his past two starts after not giving up a long ball in his previous eight outings.
"It could be mechanics. It could be that it's late in the year, his body could be getting tired, he's not able to physically repeat what he was doing early on in the year," catcher Chris Stewart said. "He could be getting more conscious of it now. We can go to the tape, take a look at what he was doing, and hopefully correct it before his next outing."
With 171 1/3 innings under his belt already, Kuroda is on pace for his third consecutive 200-inning season. Prior to 2011, Kuroda hadn't reached that mark since 2005, making it possible that his workload in recent years could be catching up with him.
"This time of the season, you have a lot of innings thrown," Kuroda said. "There are issues that you have to figure out, but I have experienced this before. I think I'll be able to regroup."
--Eduardo Nunez was scratched from Wednesday's game after experiencing pain in his right knee during batting practice, leaving the infielder concerned about his status for the final month of the season.
"There's only five weeks and the season's over," Nunez said. "If I miss two or three more weeks, that would be almost the whole year."
Nunez must have breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after an MRI taken in New York came back negative. Nunez was listed as day-to-day by the Yankees, who are also uncertain whether Robinson Cano will be available Friday after getting hit on his left hand by a J.A. Happ pitch on Wednesday.
With Cano and Nunez unavailable Wednesday, the Yankees turned to Mark Reynolds to play second base, a position he had manned three times for a total of three innings during the first seven years of his career.
"It was different, you know?" Reynolds said. "It was fun, and now I can say I played second base for the Yankees."
Reynolds, who played second base in the minors, seemed quite comfortable at the position.
"You've been around long enough that you know what to do," Reynolds said. "The first play, it was a pop-up or something, and (Derek Jeter) turned around to throw me the ball, and I was like standing in my position still, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I've got to cover second.' But when the game got going I felt pretty comfortable there."
If Cano and Nunez are still out Friday, Reynolds will continue playing in their place.