ARLINGTON -- The second out of the sixth inning had just been recorded and manager Joe Girardi emerged from the third-base dugout at Rangers Ballpark, greeted at the mound with a somewhat quizzical look from Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
"I wanted to know what he had left in the tank," Girardi said. "It was hot and I wanted to make sure he felt good. So I said, 'Go get 'em.'"
Kuroda shrugged off the steamy Texas temperatures and went back to the business he has conducted so well all summer, wrapping up seven splendid innings as the Yankees defeated the Rangers, 2-0, on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark.
"He's pitching real good for us," Yankees catcher Austin Romine said. "Every time he goes out there, we know it's going to be a real close game. It's Hiro. It's what he's doing. He goes out there and throws. I don't know how to explain it any other way."
The power-challenged Yankees haven't been able to promise a whole lot of run support for their pitchers, but the way Kuroda was mowing through Texas' lineup, one run would have been enough. They doubled that, and Kuroda made it hold up.
Brent Lillibridge's sixth-inning RBI double gave the Yankees a lead and New York tacked on another run in the eighth, allowing Mariano Rivera to record his 33rd save in 35 opportunities and secure a split of the four-game series with the Rangers.
"That guy has been solid for us the whole year," Rivera said of Kuroda. "To come out and pitch the way he pitched today, it was brilliant. In this weather? He was outstanding for us. It means a lot. We needed to win this game. Period."
Kuroda scattered six singles in the 100-pitch effort, logging his first career victory in three starts at Rangers Ballpark. It was the third consecutive winning start for Kuroda, who has allowed just two runs in his last 26 innings (0.69 ERA).
"I don't think I had any particular pitch that was working well," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "From the get-go, I didn't have a good outing, but I was able to get big outs and put up a decent outing."
Told that Kuroda didn't think highly of his stuff, Romine chuckled, calling Kuroda "a perfectionist."
"I disagree with that," Romine said. "Namely, his splitter was there; it was working. He was keeping lefty bats off balance. We were able to work inside a little more later in the game. Probably the third or fourth inning, we started working more inside, which opened up the slider away."
Kuroda said that the Texas heat, 91 degrees at first pitch, was not really an issue.
"Initially, I thought about that it was hot today," Kuroda said. "I've experienced pitching in heat like this in Japan, so during the game, I didn't really think about it."
Rangers starter Derek Holland tried to match Kuroda, allowing two runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"It was a very good pitching duel going out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Both pitchers did their job on each side. They just happened to take advantage of the opportunities to put runs on the board, and we didn't."
Romine opened the sixth with a double, moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt and then scored as Lillibridge connected for a soft double down the left-field line. Romine finished with three hits, a career high.
"It was a great day for him," Girardi said of the backup catcher. "He's been playing well. He's turned the corner for us a little bit the past couple of weeks. He's swung the bat a lot better. He's getting a little bit more playing time, and maybe that's helped him."
The Yanks added a run in the eighth as Robinson Cano stroked a one-out double to chase Holland. Vernon Wells greeted Tanner Scheppers with a hit, moving Cano to third, and the game's final run scored on Eduardo Nunez's fielder's-choice grounder to second base.
"Whatever happens with the offense, all I want to do is make sure that I contribute to a win," Kuroda said. "With the two-run lead today, I think I was able to get big outs and get away with it."
That was enough to allow Rivera to enter for what will go down as his final regular-season appearance at Rangers Ballpark, coming a few hours after he stood at home plate and was presented with commemorative boots and a cowboy hat by Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, All-Star closer Joe Nathan and former teammate John Wetteland.
Girardi said that he thought the ceremony was "great" and joked that while Rivera looked good in a Stetson, he was really hoping that the closer would wear the boots onto the team charter.
"I don't know about that -- it's kind of a little too hot," Rivera said. "I might wear it one of these days, show up at Yankee Stadium with it."