NEW YORK -- If the Yankees are destined for the kind of September run they'll need to qualify for the postseason, it must start now. Solid pitching and just enough hitting, their most-commonly used formula in victories this season to date, figures to be the most likely way they'd do it.
Hiroki Kuroda held up his end of the bargain with seven innings of one-run ball and Brian McCann homered as part of a four-hit performance, leading the Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium and snapping a three-game losing streak.
"Every game we play from now on is going to be a must-win for us, so I wanted to shift the momentum," Kuroda said through an interpreter.
The win moved the Yankees four games back of the Tigers for the second American League Wild Card spot, tied with the Indians and trailing the Mariners by 3 1/2 games.
"We needed one badly. We'd lost three in a row," manager Joe Girardi said. "As I've said, this is a very important homestand and we need to win a lot of games."
Kuroda notched his 10th victory by tying his season high with eight strikeouts. Wielding a good splitter and sinker, he held Boston to four hits without a walk and won for the third time in four starts, all of them of the quality variety.
"He just had another start that he's had all year long," McCann said. "I feel like he's been so consistent day in and day out, pitch after pitch. He just keeps making them."
After struggling down the stretch last season due to fatigue, Kuroda has taken precautionary measures to ward off a similar swoon. Kuroda has gradually cut down on his throwing between starts, including skipping a side session this week.
"Especially last year, I didn't have a good month of September, so I just wanted to change that and I just wanted to contribute to my team," Kuroda said.
McCann provided the first shot of support in the second inning with his 17th home run of the year, a two-run blast off Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo that landed in the second deck in right field.
"He put some pretty good swings on fastballs two pitches before that, so I was trying to move his hands a little bit," Ranaudo said. "Obviously he did a good job with it."
While McCann has not enjoyed the offensive success many projected when he signed a five-year, $85 million deal this past offseason, Yankee Stadium's dimensions have proved to be helpful for his power numbers.
"Obviously the short porch in right helps, but to have so many at home and not many on the road, it's strange," McCann said.
McCann joins Joe Sewell (1931-32) and Oscar Gamble (1976) as the only Yankees to hit 15 of their first 17 homers at the Stadium, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"In BP, you don't have to hit the ball that hard to get it out," McCann said. "You go on the road, maybe you've got to swing a little bit harder. I haven't really dove into why that is."
Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in Chase Headley with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly as the Yankees got three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings off Ranaudo, who walked two and struck out one as he absorbed his first Major League loss.
The Yankees, who had lost five of their last seven games and haven't exactly been spotless on the basepaths, stumbled again out of the gate.
Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter were nabbed on a first-inning double steal that turned into a unique 2-6-3-4-5-3 double play; with Gardner getting a poor jump, catcher Christian Vazquez fired to second baseman Jemile Weeks, who whipped a throw that pinned Jeter off third. Gardner was then tagged out by first baseman Allen Craig as he tried to scramble to second base.
"Gardy did not get a good jump and he has to stop. Jeet had third base easy," Girardi said. "Gardy has to stop there, and running into two outs -- I wasn't real happy about it. But we made up for it and that mistake didn't cost us dearly, fortunately."
It seemed a distant memory by the time New York added two runs in the seventh off reliever Alex Wilson, the game well in hand. Brock Holt's sixth-inning RBI double accounted for Boston's only dent of the night.
In the seventh, Ellsbury tripled and scored on Gardner's single to right field and McCann drove home Jeter with his fourth hit of the night, a single to right that also saw Carlos Beltran tagged out at the plate trying to score.
Dellin Betances recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless eighth inning, giving him 122 for the season -- second behind only Masahiro Tanaka (135) for the team lead. David Robertson worked around a ninth-inning single in a non-save situation to seal the win.
"It's big. At this point, our mindset here is to just win as many games as we can," McCann said. "We've got one month to turn it on and we plan on doing that."