NEW YORK (AP) — After a long, drawn-out spring training, and two weeks spent almost entirely on the road, Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles were ready to head home.
And that was before they ran into Hiroki Kuroda.
Kuroda pitched a five-hitter for his fifth major league shutout and Brett Gardner hit his first home run off a left-handed pitcher since July 2010, leading the New York Yankees over the Orioles 3-0 Sunday night.
Wei-Yin Chen pitched nearly as well, but the Orioles’ batters couldn’t do much against Kuroda and his heavy, biting sinker on a cold and breezy night in the Bronx.
“We’ve been on a two-month-plus road trip, it looks like,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “So, after Tampa, Boston and New York, we’re looking forward to seeing some friendly faces.”
The Orioles’ only time at Camden Yards so far this season was a three-game set against the Twins. Otherwise, they’ve slogged through nine games in AL East cities and they’re ready to settle in for a nine-game homestand after Monday’s off day.
“It feels as if we haven’t been home since last year,” said Davis, who struck out three times. “We had a brief three days there and it was kind of chaotic, so it will be nice to be home and sleep in our own beds.”
Chen (0-2) matched him until the fifth. Brennan Boesch led off with a single and scored on Nix’s sacrifice fly, and Gardner hit a drive high off the right-field foul pole. Gardner had gone 178 at-bats without a home run off a lefty — 198 including the postseason — since connecting off Toronto’s Ricky Romero on July 3, 2010.
“I feel like it’s an OK performance tonight,” Chen said through an interpreter. “On the mound, I was thinking too much and that cost the big inning for us.”
Chen allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, dropping to 0-6 with a 4.37 ERA in 10 starts since winning Aug. 19 at Detroit. He’s winless in three starts this season, though in his previous outing he held Boston to two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-1 loss.
“He pitched real well, gave us a chance to win,” Showalter said. “We just weren’t able to score any runs. With very few exceptions, he was just as good as Kuroda.”
Kuroda (2-1) struck out four and walked none, lifting the Yankees back over .500 at 6-5. New York’s rotation was looking fraught coming in. Phil Hughes had been hit hard by the Orioles the previous day, and Andy Pettitte’s scheduled return from back spasms had been pushed back to next weekend’s series at Toronto.
On Sunday night, Kuroda was locked in. He got 18 groundball outs, and the Orioles didn’t get a runner past first base until Nick Markakis took second on Adam Jones’ bouncer to third in the ninth. That brought the Orioles down to their final out, and Kuroda struck out Davis for the third time.
“I was able to throw my sinker with precision,” Kuroda said through an interpreter.
Kuroda’s eighth inning ended with a snappy double play started by shortstop Jayson Nix, who ranged far to his left to scoop up Nate McLouth’s grounder up the middle and flipped to Robinson Cano covering the bag for a 6-4-3 double play.
“He kept his pitch count down, that’s why I kept running him out there.” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s got outstanding command and he really knows how to pitch.”
Kuroda kept the Orioles from heading home with a winning swing through Boston and New York.
“Obviously, there were some games we’d like to have back, but to start off in these conditions and split the series on the road, it’s a step in the positive direction.”
NOTES: Chen was the only Orioles pitcher who made more than 20 starts last season, his first in the major leagues. … Pettitte is expected to make his next start Friday at Toronto after his turn in the rotation was pushed back. The Yankees had the 40-year-old in line to start Sunday but he experienced back spasms Thursday night, initially leading the team to push his outing back to Tuesday or Wednesday. Ivan Nova is set to start Tuesday, followed by CC Sabathia and Hughes. … Showalter said that OF-INF Conor Jackson has decided to retire. The 30-year-old Jackson had been the Orioles’ last player cut in spring training. … It was a breezy 51 degrees when the game started. … The Yankees have 18 homers in 11 games this season.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)