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BAL@NYY: Kuroda tags out Markakis to preserve lead

NEW YORK -- The trusting relationship between Hiroki Kuroda and Russell Martin was polished during their days together in Los Angeles, and it paid off in the form of a key play on Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Martin shoveled a strike to Kuroda at the plate after a seventh-inning splitter bounced away from the catcher, and the pitcher deftly covered the plate to slap a run-saving tag on the Orioles' Nick Markakis as the Yankees held on for a 2-1 victory.

"The most important thing is that we got a win," said Kuroda, who won his second straight start. "I'm satisfied with that. I had complete trust in Russell."

Kuroda looked down at his right hand to check for an injury after Markakis' hard slide into home, but the right-hander and his former Dodgers batterymate had already survived their toughest scrape of the night.

Backed by Eric Chavez's second inning two-run homer, Kuroda held Baltimore to a run on four hits in seven innings. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera finished the job to preserve the win as the Yankees improved to 4-0 against the Orioles this season.

For Kuroda (2-3), the victory snapped an unwelcome trend he had established of following a good start with a subpar effort. Kuroda, like CC Sabathia a day prior, gave the Yankees the type of deep and winning effort they have craved from their rotation.

"I thought he pitched effectively inside," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his slider was good tonight. The only walk that he had scored. He attacked the zone all night, and I thought he was effective."

Kuroda cruised through the first six innings, limiting Baltimore to just Chris Davis' second-inning sacrifice fly, but the Orioles cobbled together a rally in the seventh, as Markakis singled and Kuroda hit Matt Wieters on the right knee with a pitch.

A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, and after a strikeout, Kuroda uncorked another splitter that skipped away, allowing Markakis to break for the plate. Martin recovered and tossed to Kuroda, who slapped the tag on Markakis.

"I didn't think the ball was that far, but they were being aggressive right there," Martin said. "Hiro got off the mound really quick and gave me a good target, and I just laid it in there for him."

Chavez, playing third base, said that he was somewhat surprised that Markakis moved immediately, but Markakis said he needed to press the envelope in a one-run game.

"It's not like we had 10 hits, 12 hits; a lot played into the situation," Markakis said. "I was just looking to score [and] tie the game. I thought I had a good jump. The ball didn't go as far as I wanted to. Nine times out of 10, I'm going to try it."

Kuroda was done for the night, having walked one and struck out three en route to his second win in three Yankee Stadium starts. The right-hander threw 52 of 87 pitches for strikes, and lowered his ERA to 3.69.

The Yankees managed two runs in six innings against Baltimore's Jason Hammel, both coming on Chavez's long second-inning homer, which cleared the fence in right-center field and rattled into the Yankees' bullpen.

The Orioles thought that Mark Teixeira's single earlier in the inning had been foul down the right-field line, but first-base umpire Bob Davidson didn't agree, so Teixeira was aboard for Chavez's blast.

"Supposedly, it should still be 1-1," Hammel said. "That's part of the game, I guess -- missed calls or close calls. It is what it is."

It was Chavez's third homer, or one more than he hit in 160 at-bats last year, and he has taken advantage of increased playing time while Brett Gardner is on the disabled list.

"I kind of do feel like I'm in a good little groove, but I know what my role is," Chavez said. "I'm never going to change my view on that. I don't expect it to change. When it goes back to normal and Gardy gets here, whenever I play, I just hope to be productive."

Hammel (3-1) was stuck with the loss, as the right-hander scattered five hits while walking two and striking out five. The former Rays hurler had not started against the Yankees since April 7, 2008, spending the last three seasons with the Rockies.

The night brought an adventurous start in left field for utility man Eduardo Nunez, pressed into service for his third career outfield start after Nick Swisher strained his left hamstring in Sunday's 6-2 win over the Tigers.

Nunez was able to flag down the first ball hit in the game -- a harmless liner -- and he made a great play to catch up with Davis' second-inning sacrifice fly.

"He was tested with some tough plays, and he did an outstanding job," Girardi said.

Some outs, like his tumbling snag of a Robert Andino liner in the third inning, were more eventful for Nunez. But he made the plays he had to and kept Kuroda's winning effort on track.

"Like I say always, if the team wins, I'm really satisfied," Kuroda said. "If I pitch well and the team wins, there's nothing I can ask more."

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