CHICAGO -- Tuesday night's matchup between Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Sale lived up to its billing as a pitchers' duel, but the Yankees' offense continued to sputter and couldn't provide the team's hottest starter with enough run support.
Kuroda pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on nine hits, but his counterpart shut down the struggling Yankees lineup in a 3-2 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Alex Rodriguez, who hit third in the lineup and served as the designated hitter, returned to the Yankees on Monday amid hopes that he would provide an offensive spark, but he finished 1-for-2 with a single and a walk on Tuesday. He was also hit by a pitch.
Rodriguez was in the on-deck circle when Alfonso Soriano, batting with the tying run on first base, struck out swinging against closer Addison Reed for the final out of the game. The loss was the Yankees' third in a row and their sixth in a span of nine games.
"You always want to have an opportunity to come up with the game on the line and get a big hit for us," Rodriguez said. "I thought [Soriano] was going to get a big hit, and he looked pretty good up there."
"[The White Sox] had some hits with runners in scoring position, and that was probably the difference in the game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "[Kuroda] gave up three runs in seven innings. I mean, usually, you'll sign up for that. … He has pitched extremely well, and he should have a lot more than 10 wins."
Kuroda said that he didn't have his best stuff, but he battled to keep the Yankees in the game.
"I wasn't really sharp out there, but I think I was able to get big outs," the right-hander said.
Kuroda dueled Sale to a 1-1 tie through five innings, with the Yankees' only run until the ninth scoring on a first-inning wild pitch.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth and runners on the corners, Kuroda was able to induce Paul Konerko to ground to third, but the Yankees couldn't turn two, allowing Alexei Ramirez to score the go-ahead run.
White Sox left fielder Alejandro De Aza plated a seventh-inning insurance run -- one that Kuroda didn't think would decide the game at the time, but one he regretted nonetheless.
"I didn't think it was a game-decider, but at the same time, that third run -- I have to admit -- was a big run," he said. "I wanted to contribute to a win, and I couldn't do that."
Another key moment came in the third inning when Robinson Cano singled to left and Brett Gardner tried to score from second. Gardner raced toward the plate standing up and De Aza made a strong throw to Josh Phegley, who tried a swipe tag as Gardner crossed the plate. Gardner thought he was safe, and both he and Girardi argued the call with home-plate umpire Alan Porter to no avail.
"Possibly [Gardner would've been called safe if he'd slid], but possibly he's blocked out," Girardi said of the play. "It looked like Phegley was doing a pretty good job of blocking the plate. Possibly he's safe, though."
"It's a tough call," Girardi added. "The one thing I don't understand is [umpire] positioning, and I've never understood it. … I think they've got to be where the tag takes place, so I think they almost have to be in line with the right-field pole and first base and up the line a little bit at third base, where the tag is going to take place, so they can see the tag."
That play proved to be important, as Sale turned in another strong performance, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits while fanning six over 7 1/3 innings. Sale has been pitching well all season but said he was extra amped up for a start against the Yankees.
"I take the same approach against everybody, but obviously when I see those guys coming to town, I don't know if I did more, but in the back of your mind, you know it's the greatest franchise in all of sports," Sale said. "You have to bring your 'A' game for sure."
Girardi said Sale did just that.
"You're not going to get a lot of opportunities off Sale," Girardi said. "I mean, he's been stingy, the way he's been pitching, so you have to take advantage. We weren't able to do it tonight."
The only RBI on the night came on a single by Gardner in the ninth to score David Adams. But it was too little, too late.
The Yankees have dropped back-to-back games to the team with the second-worst record in the American League. But Girardi says this week's disappointment isn't about the White Sox. It's about the Yankees.
"I don't care who you're playing," Girardi said. "We haven't played well, and it's more upon ourselves as opposed to the other teams."
With the loss, the Yankees lost ground in the AL East and are now 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox. New York is six games out of the AL Wild Card race.
"With where we're at and the position that we're in," Girardi said, "we have to win every day."