NEW YORK -- The ball bounced away from New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin and, with it, the game could have, too.
At third base with two outs in the seventh inning and his team down a run, the Baltimore Orioles' Nick Markakis got a good jump, sprinting home.
But Martin was quick, and so was Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who had battled Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel through six innings of a pitchers' duel.
As he raced home from the mound, Kuroda had one thought, he said after the Yankees' 2-1 win.
"I was convinced I was gonna get him out if I had a good throw from Russell," Kuroda said through a translator. "I was gonna hold onto that ball, no matter what."
He did, swiping a tag on Markakis to end the threat and the inning.
Kuroda's work, along with a dominant inning by David Robertson, a save for Mariano Rivera and a two-run homer by Eric Chavez, added up to the Yankees' second straight victory. It came with back-to-back strong starts from their top two pitchers to stabilize their struggling rotation.
"Russ jumped on it quick, Hiroki was right there," said Chavez, who watched the play unfold from his spot as the Yankees' third baseman. "That was a game-saver."
The result snapped Baltimore's two-game winning streak and pushed the Yankees within a half-game of the surprising Orioles. The Yankees also denied Orioles manager Buck Showalter in his first shot to claim his 1,000th career victory against the team for which he first managed.
Hammel, who had not allowed more than two runs in any of his previous four starts, matched his early-season form. He gave up the two-run homer to Chavez but otherwise held the Yankees scoreless on four hits in six innings.
But Kuroda (2-3) was better, after allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings.
"He's been throwing the ball great," Chavez said of Hammel (3-1). "Hiroki did a good job, and both those guys threw the ball well tonight."
Kuroda was especially impressive in escaping the seventh. Markakis led off the inning with a single, and Kuroda hit Matt Wieters with a pitch one out later.
A wild pitch sent both runners up a base, but Kuroda struck out Chris Davis for the second out.
With Wilson Betemit batting, Kuroda bounced what would have been another wild pitch, but Martin and Kuroda teamed up to cut down Markakis at the plate.
"I'm not going to dwell on that," Showalter said. "We had plenty of opportunities to make that not matter."
Robertson came on in the eighth and showed why his teammates' confidence in him lately is "very high, very high," as Chavez said.
Robertson, who has not allowed a run in 10 innings this season, struck out the side.
Rivera allowed a one-out single to J.J. Hardy in the ninth, but he got Markakis to hit into a double play for his fifth save of the year.
The Yankees took a 2-1 lead off Hammel in the bottom of the second when Chavez homered to right. Chavez, playing third with Alex Rodriguez as the designated hitter, drove in Mark Teixeira, who had singled earlier in the inning.
Chavez has received more playing time lately with outfielder Brett Gardner out, opening up the DH spot for Rodriguez, and he said he's been more comfortable at the plate as a result. But Chavez acknowledged his utility role, saying, "Once (Gardner) comes back, it goes back to normal."
With right fielder Nick Swisher expected to miss a week due to a left hamstring injury, manager Joe Girardi said he's opting to keep a two-man bench for the next few days. Gardner is eligible to return from the DL on Thursday, so Girardi said he would keep his seven-man bullpen for now.
That left Eduardo Nunez pressed into duty in left field, where he had played just five times with two starts as a major-leaguer.
Nunez, who said he would do whatever was asked of him, had an adventurous outing early, sliding in to make a pair of awkward catches. But he also went back to make a nice grab on Davis' sacrifice fly in the top of the second. Adam Jones, who had walked and gone to third on Wieters' single, came home for a 1-0 lead.
"He was tested with some tough plays today," Girardi said of Nunez, who played left with Raul Ibanez in right. "He did an outstanding job."
NOTES: Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings in an extended spring training game at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater, Fla., on Monday. Pettitte threw 96 pitches, and Girardi said he heard Pettitte was pleased with how he threw. The Yankees will further discuss the next step Tuesday, Girardi said. ... Rivera appeared in his 1,051st major league game, passing Kent Tekulve for eighth place on the major league all-time list. ... Gardner, who is eligible to return from the disabled list on Thursday, is scheduled to take batting practice Tuesday. He is out due to an elbow strain. ... Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada had his left elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum on Monday, and the team was awaiting the results. Wada could be facing ligament surgery. ... Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who hadn't pitched since April 22, threw a scoreless inning. He had been hospitalized for several days due to food poisoning.