Perhaps the only thing more surprising than how well the Baltimore Orioles have played this season is how poorly the New York Yankees have looked.
The Orioles will try to open 4-0 for the second consecutive season and send the Yankees to their first 0-4 start in 39 years Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at Camden Yards.
While ending a run of 14 straight losing seasons would be considered a very successful campaign for Baltimore, the Yankees are again expected to compete for a championship.
Fast starts haven't been uncommon for the Orioles, who won six of their first seven games last season before dropping eight in a row. They went on lose to lose 93 games and finish last in the AL East for the fourth straight season.
Any improvement Baltimore makes in 2012 will hinge on improving a pitching staff that ranked last in the majors in ERA (4.89), hits (1,568) and homers allowed (210).
While it's only one series and came against a Minnesota team that struggled to score last season, the Orioles have to be thrilled with how they performed during a dominant three-game sweep.
Baltimore pitchers allowed five total runs - none over the first seven innings - and 15 hits in the series.
Jason Hammel became the latest Orioles starter to pitch superbly, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Sunday's 3-1 victory.
Hammel's gem followed stellar outings by Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter, who combined to allow two unearned runs over 14 innings in the first two games.
"That's how we're going to have to win," catcher Matt Wieters told the team's official website. "Starting pitching is what's going to win in this division. And if we keep getting starts like this, we have a good chance."
Looking to keep the Orioles rolling will be Brian Matusz, who hopes to erase the memory of a miserable season.
Thought to be the team's emerging ace after an outstanding second half in 2010, the left-hander regressed in a huge way last season. He went 1-9 in 12 starts and his 10.69 ERA set a single-season high for pitchers with at least 10 starts.
Matusz earned the final spot in the rotation with a solid spring, but making his first start against New York will be a challenge. He was tagged for 11 runs in 6 2-3 innings in two starts versus the Yankees last season.
Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are hitting a combined .415 (22 for 53) with 10 extra-base hits - three homers - against Matusz.
The Yankees were on the other end of a season-opening sweep, losing all three games in Tampa Bay for their first 0-3 start since 1998.
After scoring 12 runs in the first two games, New York was limited to three hits in Sunday's 3-0 defeat.
"At times it seems magnified when it's the beginning of the year,'' manager Joe Girardi said. "We've all been through three-game losing streaks. This is a resilient club. We'll be fine.''
Another loss Monday would make the Yankees 0-4 for just the third time in franchise history and the first since 1973. The only other time New York started with four losses was in 1930.
Ivan Nova will try to help New York break into the win column. The right-hander did more than his share of winning last season, finishing second on the team with 16 victories while compiling a 3.70 ERA. Nova, however, posted an 8.06 ERA in 22 1-3 innings this spring and his spot in the rotation was in question.
He is 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts versus the Orioles.
The Yankees have won 13 of 18 against Baltimore each of the last three seasons.