If the Yankees manage to somehow keep their flickering postseason hopes alive the band leader will be Hiroki Kuroda. With Mariano Rivera unavailable after flushing three straight save opportunities and the Yankees’ bats controlled by Angels starter Garrett Richards Kuroda hurled the Yankees to a 2-1 victory in front of an announced Yankee Stadium crowd of 37146. “It was a brilliant performance by Kuroda’’ manager Joe Girardi said following his team’s second straight victory the first time they won back-to-back games in a month. “I don’t know if you can expect anyone to be that dominant. He has been brilliant. He knew we needed distance tonight.’’ Kuroda pitched eight shutout innings improved to 11-7 and lowered his ERA to 2.33. Girardi decided 107 pitches were enough for his ace and opted for Boone Logan and David Robertson to pitch what turned into a high-anxiety act in the ninth inning while Rivera sat idle. Rivera said he wasn’t hurting and vowed to be available tonight. “I wanted to avoid the home run. I was able to keep the ball down’’ said Kuroda who allowed three hits walked one and struck out seven. Accountability is big with CC Sabathia Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes. And it’s something Kuroda accepts. “Our bullpen has done a great job for us. But the bullpen has been working hard all year. My responsibility is to pitch into deep into the game’’ said Kuroda who has worked seven or more innings in his last five outings. The victory pulled the Yankees to within 9 1/2 games of the idle first-place Red Sox in the AL East. Brett Gardner’s two-out single in the third scored Eduardo Nunez with the game’s first run and Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the seventh off Richards that landed in the second deck in right field upped the edge to 2-0.