ARLINGTON, Texas - Joe Girardi got the distance he wanted out of Hiroki Kuroda. The offense, as it has been for much of a season that may be starting to circle the drain, was a different story.
A night after erupting for 12 runs, the Yankees were shut down by Colby Lewis, one of the Rangers' worst pitchers, in a disheartening 3-2 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 46,599 Wednesday night at Globe Life Park.
Losing two of three to baseball's worst team dropped the Yankees (55-52) 5½ games behind the first-place Orioles in the AL East.
Lefthander Neal Cotts pitched a perfect eighth and Neftali Feliz threw a 1-2-3 ninth, so the last 19 Yankees went down in order.
"We seem to bring the best out of a lot of teams,'' Derek Jeter said, "so you can't really go into a series thinking that just because a team's struggling it's going to roll over and let you beat them.
"They played better than us, they beat us. That's the bottom line. They were ready to play us.''
The Yankees, off Thursday before starting a series Friday night at Fenway Park, dramatically regressed offensively 24 hours after Tuesday's outburst.
Against Lewis, who came in 6-8 with a 6.23 ERA, the Bombers managed only four hits in seven innings. Their runs came on homers by Brett Gardner, who went deep for a third straight game, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
"It's something I talked about after the break, that we needed to be consistent with our offense,'' Girardi said. "You have the big explosion yesterday, we get the two solo shots today and that's about it.''
Lewis produced a similar line to the one he had last Thursday in a 4-2 loss in the Bronx. Then he allowed three runs and four hits in 61/3 innings. This time he gave up two runs and four hits in seven, retiring his last 13 batters.
Before the game, Girardi said of Kuroda, "It's important we get some distance out of him tonight,'' because relievers David Robertson and Dellin Betances, and likely Adam Warren, were unavailable.
Kuroda (7-7), after a laborious first inning (three runs, 33 pitches) came through, going seven. Although he got into his share of trouble after the first and gave up nine hits, he allowed no more runs. He limited Texas (43-65) 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven.
But as it's been for much of his career, with the Yankees and Dodgers, there was not much offensive support. There wasn't even much to lament as there were few opportunities. The Yankees went 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position and stranded four.
Gardner led off by driving Lewis' 2-and-2 pitch just inside the foul pole in right for his 14th homer, second on the Yankees behind Mark Teixeira (18). Gardner's 48th RBI moved him within four of his single-season high last year.
Kuroda could not hold the 1-0 lead in the 33-pitch first. Shin-Soo Choo led off with a single and scored on Elvis Andrus' double into the leftfield corner. Andrus went to third on Alex Rios' grounder to short and, with the infield in, scored when Adrian Beltre banged a single up the middle.
Jim Adduci singled to left and, after J.P. Arencibia struck out, Leonys Martin fought off a handful pitches before reaching low and away for a 3-and-2 splitter. He flared it down the leftfield line for a single that drove in Beltre to make it 3-1.
Ellsbury's ninth homer made it 3-2 in the third.