Hiroki Kuroda was much better than last time out. Still, he wasn't good enough to keep Robinson Cano from leaving Yankee Stadium with two straight wins.
Cano doubled and drove in two runs, shrugging off the boos in his return to New York, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Yankees 4-2 Thursday night behind an impressive pitching performance from rookie Roenis Elias.
"Sometimes pitchers are going to be better than you," Derek Jeter said. "He threw really well. He's not a typical lefty who tries to trick you. He gets it up there pretty good."
Michael Saunders had three hits, including an RBI double, and Elias struck out 10 in seven innings as the Mariners won their fifth in six games following an eight-game skid. Seattle took both games in a rain-shortened series that marked Cano's first trip back to New York after leaving for a $240 million, 10-year contract last offseason.
The All-Star second baseman was booed again and finished the series 2 for 9 with three RBIs. Seattle has won four straight at Yankee Stadium dating to last season.
"There weren't any expectations from the crowd today. I just wanted to go out and take care of business," Cano said. "You have to understand the fans, but it is not going to be a distraction for me."
Kuroda (2-3) gave up four runs — three earned — and seven hits in six innings, lowering his ERA slightly to 5.14. It was an improvement over his previous outing Friday night, when the 39-year-old right-hander was hammered in a 13-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of nights that's going to be good enough to win."
Elias (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Jacoby Ellsbury but not much else in his first appearance against the Yankees. The left-hander from Cuba threw 73 of 110 pitches for strikes, starting 75 percent of his 28 batters with a strike. He allowed six hits and one earned run while walking two.
"Pretty good stuff from that young man," Girardi said.
Yoervis Medina worked a perfect eighth, and Fernando Rodney got three outs for his sixth save.
Ellsbury, who sat out Tuesday with a sore left hand, sent Elias' fourth pitch to right field for his first home run with the Yankees. It was New York's first leadoff shot since Jeter connected at the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 21, 2012.
"It was nice getting that first one. Too bad it couldn't come in a win," Ellsbury said.
Elias, who skipped Triple-A, struck out the next three batters and settled in from there. Showing good command of a sharp curve, he induced two double-play grounders and struck out the side in the fifth.
"He was hitting his spots. He was getting ahead," Jeter said. "He's got a good arm."
Cano hit an RBI double in the first and a run-scoring groundout in the third after Jeter made an error at shortstop.
Brad Miller dumped a two-out RBI single in front of hesitant left fielder Brett Gardner in the fourth. Saunders followed with a ground-rule double that made it 4-1.
"I thought my split was inconsistent," Kuroda said through a translator. "There were some good pitches, but the ones that got hit were bad pitches."
New York cut it to 4-2 in the sixth on Brian McCann's run-scoring single with two outs after Cano was charged with an error. Elias retired Yangervis Solarte with two on to end the inning.
The Yankees did not get another baserunner until a two-out single by pinch-hitter Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth.
"We know we're going to hit. We know we're going to play better. It's going to come," Carlos Beltran said.
NOTES: New York missed Mariners ace Felix Hernandez this week. After the rainout Wednesday, the Mariners pushed him back one day to Friday night in Houston. ... Many players on the Mariners received autographed Jeter jerseys — but not Cano. ... Ellsbury has 11 career leadoff homers. ... Girardi confirmed RHP David Phelps will move into Michael Pineda's spot in the rotation. Phelps, who has been in the bullpen all season, threw about 80 pitches in a simulated game indoors Wednesday to get stretched out. He is lined up to start Monday night at the Los Angeles Angels. Pineda is serving a 10-game suspension for having pine tar on his neck and is expected to miss three to four weeks with a strained muscle in his back near his surgically repaired shoulder. ... Yankees INF Brendan Ryan (spine) will have his rehab assignment transferred to Double-A Trenton on Friday. He is about 10 at-bats from being ready to return, Girardi said.