NEW YORK -- It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since the New York Yankees were shut out in back-to-back games.
It's harder to believe this season's light-hitting group still hasn't ended that streak. They sure did come close this weekend.
After seeming to break out with 10 runs on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees didn't score at all Saturday and didn't score until Jacoby Ellsbury's two-out home run in the ninth inning in Sunday's 4-1 loss.
Ellsbury's homer means that those two May 1999 games against the team then known as the Anaheim Angels remain as the last consecutive Yankees shutouts. Still, this was a terrible weekend for the Yankees' hitters, a lost series against the Indians and another tough spot for this team that still wants to think of itself as a playoff contender.
It's hardly the way the Yankees wanted to go into what they're still considering a big series against the first-place Baltimore Orioles.
Short (but not quick) day for Kuroda: Now that we're well into August, it's fair to examine every Hiroki Kuroda start for signs that the 39-year-old right-hander is running out of gas, or looking his age. In those terms, Sunday's outing against the Indians was not encouraging.
Kuroda was behind in the count regularly, and when he walked consecutive batters to force in a run in the fifth inning, manager Joe Girardi almost sprinted out of the dugout to remove him from the game. It was the fourth time in 24 starts this season that Kuroda has failed to finish the fifth inning, the most since he was an MLB rookie in 2008.
The Indians had 10 baserunners against Kuroda in just 4 2/3 innings, and he threw 97 pitches. The Yankees were fortunate to be trailing only 3-0 when Kuroda departed.
The return of C.C.: That's not CC Sabathia, the Yankees starter who is out for the season with knee trouble. The Indians' starter Sunday was Carlos (C.C.) Carrasco, and the pitcher who manager Terry Francona chose to have follow him was C.C. Lee, a 27-year-old right-hander from Taiwan.
Carrasco, making his first start since April, allowed the Yankees just two baserunners in five innings, on a first-inning single by Ellsbury and a second-inning single by Stephen Drew.
Carrasco began the day with a 17-start winless streak that dated back to June 2011, but perhaps a start at Yankee Stadium was just what he needed. His only other start in New York was on June 13, 2011, and that day Carrasco pitched seven shutout innings to beat the Yankees 1-0.
The Mitchell report: Right-hander Bryan Mitchell made his major league debut when he pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Yankees. Mitchell is the 31st pitcher to appear in a game for the Yankees this season, extending a team record. He's the ninth rookie pitcher the Yankees have used (which, surprisingly, is not a team record).
The Yankees are one of eight major league teams that have used at least 24 pitchers this season. Of the eight, only the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels have winning records.
What's next: A wild-card spot may be a more realistic goal, but the Yankees still want to think they can chase down the first-place Orioles in the American League East. They'd better start that chasing this week, with a three-game series at Camden Yards. Chris Capuano (1-2, 3.91) opens the series in a 7:05 game Monday night, with right-hander Bud Norris (9-7, 3.68) starting for the Orioles. Shane Greene (3-1, 2.89) faces left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (12-4, 3.90) on Tuesday, with either Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.16) or Michael Pineda (2-2, 1.83) going against right-hander Chris Tillman (9-5, 3.73) on Wednesday.