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Yankees' Kuroda shuts out Orioles

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK - The New York Yankees bullpen was a busy place in the eighth and ninth innings Sunday night as closer Mariano Rivera, set-up man David Robertson and middle reliever Shawn Kelley all warmed up.

With the way Hiroki Kuroda was throwing, there was no other way for the Yankees' relievers to get their work in.

Kuroda tossed a masterful five-hit shutout Sunday night, and Brett Gardner's two-run homer capped a three-run fifth inning as the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-0 in front of 34,154 at blustery Yankee Stadium.

Kuroda struck out five - including Chris Davis to end the game - and walked none in an efficient 113-pitch performance. He got 18 groundball outs and threw a first-pitch strike to 22 of the 32 batters he faced in his fifth career shutout and his third in 36 starts for the Yankees.

"Hiro' pitched a great game, to go the distance like he did," Gardner said. "He's such a professional. He pounds the zone and gets ahead of hitters. He's a lot of fun to watch."

Kuroda threw three pitches or less to 17 batters and went to a three-ball count just three times. He threw more than 15 pitches in an inning once (a 19-pitch fifth). He responded to the Yankees' three-run fifth by retiring the Orioles in order on seven pitches in the top of the sixth.

"When you throw first-pitch strikes, you're generally going to have a pretty good game," said Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones, who had one of Baltimore's five singles. "Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap to the man. He threw a good game and we were unable to put him in any uncomfortable situations."

Only one Oriole runner - Nick Markakis in the ninth - reached second base against Kuroda.

"I wasn't really thinking about [the shutout]," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I was trying to get outs one hitter at a time. We have a great bullpen, so I didn't really think about the shutout."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, meanwhile, wasn't thinking about going to the bullpen - even on a cool 51-degree night in April, the type of evening in which managers tend to play it safe with their starters.

"He kept his pitch count down and that's why I continued to let him go out there," Girardi said.

The Yankees, who have four All-Stars on the disabled list - Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez - improved to 6-5 by winning for the fifth time in six games following a 1-4 start.

"I think our guys have done very well and responded very well to a slow start," Girardi said. "I'm happy with what these guys have done so far, the way they've shown their character. The guys have stepped up and done a good job in some people's absence."

The Orioles (6-6) capped a season-opening stretch in which they played just three games at home. Baltimore will play its next nine games at Camden Yards.

Brennan Boesch had two singles for the Yankees, including the hit that started the fifth-inning outburst. After back-to-back singles by Boesch and Francisco Cervelli, consecutive fly outs to deep right by Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix brought home Boesch. Gardner followed with a majestic two-run homer to right off the foul pole.

"Just nice to be able to come through in a situation like that," Gardner said. "Guys getting on base giving me the opportunity to get runs in. And that's all we needed was that one inning."

Wei-Yin Chen was the hard-luck loser for the Orioles after allowing three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out two over six innings. Chen is winless in his last 10 regular-season starts, a stretch in which the Orioles have scored just 15 runs for him while he's been on the mound.

"He pitched real well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We just weren't able to score any runs. With very few exceptions, he was as good as Kuroda."

NOTES: Granderson, who has been sidelined since fracturing his right forearm in the exhibition opener Feb. 24, threw from 60 feet Thursday and Saturday and shagged flyballs during batting practice Sunday. He's still not ready to swing a bat, though, and said he would need 50 to 70 at-bats before he'd be ready to return to the Yankees. ... New York left-hander Andy Pettitte, who was originally scheduled to start Sunday's game, had his next start bumped back again from Tuesday to Friday due to back spasms. Pettitte was supposed to throw a bullpen session Sunday, but that got pushed to Tuesday because Girardi was worried Pettitte's availability for Friday would have been endangered if he still felt discomfort while throwing Sunday. ... Yankees infielder Eduardo Nunez, who was hit on the right wrist by a pitch Friday night, was only available as an emergency defensive replacement Sunday. ... Utility man Conor Jackson, who was the Orioles' final cut in spring training, announced his retirement Sunday. Jackson spent the first two weeks of the season at Triple-A Norfolk. A first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2003, Jackson hit .271 with 52 homers and 295 RBIs in seven big leagues seasons but was hampered by injuries the last several years, including a debilitating bout with valley fever. ... Orioles designated hitters were just 2-for-37 this season before Nolan Reimold's third-inning single. ... The Orioles and the Rockies are the only teams to play just three home games thus far.
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