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TOR@NYY: Girardi discusses Kuroda's outing

Even after a successful road trip that saw the Mariners go 5-2 and win their first series since June 15-17, there is room for improvement as the team returns home to face the Yankees on Monday.

Some of the Mariners' young hitters are struggling to show consistent improvement at the plate, as Dustin Ackley is hitting just .156 in July and .226 on the season. He got a day off on Sunday, but first baseman Justin Smoak did not. Entering Sunday's game hitting .148 in July, Smoak did not make any strides in the series finale against the Rays, going 0-for-3 and dropping his season average to .191.

"Inconsistent," manager Eric Wedge said of their progress. "Smoak has shown some signs from the right side, but still having some struggles from the left side. He's looked better in BP. Ackley had it going there for a few days, but he's had a tough couple days. I think it's there, but they just haven't been able to sustain it just yet."

Wedge acknowledged that both could benefit from extended time off but also said "there's arguments either way."

It won't get easier for the struggling hitters, as the Yankees come to town for a three-game set. Although the Mariners will miss CC Sabathia, they will still face Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, winners of nine and 10 games this season, respectively.

The Yankees are struggling as a team, though, and are fresh off a four-game sweep in Oakland. That might be more a product of a hot Oakland team, as they swept the Blue Jays before losing four to the A's.

Mariners: Millwood gets the start
• Kevin Millwood gets the ball for the Mariners on Monday, and is 3-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 14 career starts against the Yankees. The veteran right-hander did beat New York on May 13, giving up just three hits in seven innings.

Last time out, though, Millwood struggled against the Royals, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in five innings.

• The Mariners played their Major League-leading 18th rubber match on Sunday, including their past eight three-game sets. They are 8-10 in rubber matches this season.

Yankees: Kuroda looks to continue impressive run
• Kuroda takes the mound for the series opener and will look to continue an impressive streak. Since May 21, Kuroda has lost just one game -- winning six contests and lowering his ERA from 4.56 to 3.46 during the that time.

• The Yankees have a 20-11 record in series finales this year, including wins in six of their last eight and nine of their last 12. They have been swept just three times this season

Worth noting
• The Yankees took two of three from the Mariners in New York in May, and after the three-game set in Seattle, the two teams will face off for three more games in New York in early August.

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