(Reuters) - Ichiro Suzuki hit two home runs to power the New York Yankees to a 4-1 home win over struggling rivals the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
The Japanese outfielder blasted solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead and support a stellar pitching effort from compatriot Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up a single run in eight innings.
Kuroda allowed just four hits and surrendered no walks to improve to 12-8 on the season. Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 31st save of the season and New York (72-49) got their second win in the finale of the three-game series.
The Bronx Bombers were sparked by the unlikely power surge from Suzuki, who has just seven home runs this season, but received a curtain call from the New York fans after his second blast Sunday.
“It’s one of the special moments of my career, to have the support of the fans,” mid-season acquisition Suzuki told reporters. “Obviously, I still need to be ready and play well in the future, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”
Derek Jeter matched Suzuki’s three hits and scored twice while marveling at the former Seattle Mariner.
“Everybody knows how good of a hitter he is,” Jeter said. “I don’t care what the scoreboard or statistics say. We’ve played against Ichiro enough, and he’s tough to pitch to. He showed us today he can hit some home runs when he wants to.”
Adrian Gonzalez homered for the Red Sox, who saw Josh Beckett toss six innings in defeat.
Boston (59-63) have lost eight of their last 12 games and now trail the first-placed Yankees by 13 1/2 games in the American League East.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien