NEW YORK - The New York Yankees did not have a long man in the bullpen, but when Hiroki Kuroda struck out Jose Bautista on a slider for his first out Friday night, he sensed that his stuff was good enough to provide the distance that was sorely needed.
Kuroda limited the Toronto Blue Jays to two hits over eight innings, and his first-inning strikeout of Bautista set the tone for New York's 5-0 blanking of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I felt good overall, especially when I struck out Bautista and (Edwin) Encarnacion," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "That kind of put me in a good position."
The Yankees needed Kuroda (6-2) to continue into the seventh inning and beyond, and he did, reaching the seventh for the sixth time in his last eight starts, a run that began with a five-hit shutout of the Baltimore Orioles on April 14.
Kuroda's outing also came after the Yankees received a combined 5 1/3 innings the previous two nights from starters Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte due to ineffectiveness and injury.
"He's been so good for us," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "The innings that he's given you, the bullpen a lot of times the night off, the quality starts that he's given us. He's been outstanding. The way he left us last year, he has just picked right up. He continues to impress us."
Kuroda also held an opponent to two hits or fewer for the third time in his career, and nine of his 42 starts have seen him last at least seven innings without allowing a run, matching Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez for the most in the majors.
Kuroda faced two batters over the minimum and did so against a lineup that had scored 33 runs on 41 hits in the previous three games. He yielded a leadoff double by Melky Cabrera, then held the Blue Jays hitless for 19 at-bats before Encarnacion singled with one out in the seventh.
"He's good," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We got the leadoff double and you figure maybe we can get something going in the first inning, but we didn't score off him. The game was tight until the latter part, but Kuroda was just real good."
In between those hits, Kuroda won three key encounters with Bautista. Bautista came into the game 2-for-10 off Kuroda, including 0-for-5 this season, but also had eight hits in his last 16 at-bats overall.
"He's a good hitter and you have to respect that," New York catcher Austin Romine said. "But Kuroda wasn't afraid and he went at him."
"That's a helluva first inning," Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind said.
Kuroda retired Bautista by getting him to chase a slider for a strikeout for the first out. He also used the same pitch to retire the Toronto slugger on a groundout in the fourth and a pop-up to shortstop in the seventh.
"This is the third meeting in the season, so I'm going back to all the data that we have against him," Kuroda said. "So I sort of studied all of the data and match-ups with him."
Mark Buehrle (1-3) nearly kept up with Kuroda for most of the night but he fell to 1-10 in 15 career starts against the Yankees after allowing five runs and six hits in six-plus innings. Buehrle was knocked out after giving up three straight hits to start the seventh, and the Yankees expanded a 3-0 lead by scoring twice off reliever Aaron Loup.
Buehrle quieted Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells but struggled against the bottom of the Yankee lineup. After giving up an RBI groundout to Cano in the first and a sacrifice fly to Jayson Nix in the fifth with the bases loaded, he gave an up an RBI double to Romine in the seventh.
"Vernon, Cano I got those guys out but one through nine I got to get everybody out," Buehrle said.
The Yankees added two more runs off Loup as Brett Gardner singled to left field and Nix lifted his second sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Pettitte was placed on the disabled list with an upper back injury that is officially being termed a strained trapezius. The Yankees do not believe he will need more than the 15 days but did not want to be caught shorthanded if he started Tuesday and felt something in the early innings. Pettitte left Thursday's start with two outs in the fifth inning after feeling the muscle lock up the previous inning. "I don't see why it should be more than that," Pettitte said. "I think we're being cautious." ... New York catcher Chris Stewart had an MRI on his groin and it came out negative. He is available to serve as a backup if necessary, which is why he is not headed to the disabled list. .. Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes returned to the team after spending time rehabbing his leg injury in Long Island. He participated in pregame stretching and said he could do some jogging shortly. Reyes suffered the injury April 12 and is expected to be sidelined until after the All-Star break. ... Toronto right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson (triceps) threw a side session and is expected to join Class A Dunedin for a rehab assignment next week.