The Yankees and Orioles played each other as evenly as possible last year, splitting their 18-game season series. So far, 2013 has brought much of the same.
After the Yankees took Friday's series opener, 5-2, Baltimore snapped New York's four-game winning streak Saturday with a 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium. Wei-Yin Chen and Hiroki Kuroda will square off in Sunday night's rubber match, each aiming to take the series and give his club the early edge in this American League East rivalry.
As closely as they've played, the Orioles have held a slight edge in this matchup lately, having won eight of their last 13 regular-season games against the Yankees, and seven of their last 10 in the Bronx.
To improve on those records, Baltimore will hand the ball to Chen, who hasn't won a regular-season start since Aug. 19, 2012. The lefty's winless streak reached nine games in a hard-luck loss to the Red Sox on Monday, when he tossed 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs, all of them on a seventh-inning homer by Daniel Nava.
Chen didn't have much margin for error in that game, as the Orioles struck out 11 times and scored only one run in the ninth inning, and he found some solace in the way he pitched most of the game.
"Compared with my last outing, I feel like I'm getting better and better," said Chen, who retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, through interpreter Tim Lin. "But the baseball god is not with me today."
Kuroda's last outing followed a completely different script. The veteran right-hander was ineffective early on Monday against the Indians, battling his command through a 34-pitch first inning in which he gave up three runs, but he settled down after that, got plenty of run support and escaped with a win.
Despite issuing four walks and running up his pitch count to 111, Kuroda threw 5 1/3 innings and didn't allow another run after the first.
"Thanks to the offense, who gave me run support, I was able to regroup myself," Kuroda said Monday. "Especially today, with my outing like today, to get that run support was really helpful."
Orioles: Johnson, Wada making progress
• Steve Johnson and Tsuyoshi Wada pitched in an extended spring game Saturday morning, and manager Buck Showalter relayed good news about their performance and velocity. Wada threw two innings, and Johnson (lat strain), who could begin a rehab assignment soon, tossed three. Wada, coming back from Tommy John surgery, is expected to increase his workload by one inning per outing and could return by June.
"Today was a big day to get through," Showalter said of Wada. "I think the big day will be tomorrow, seeing how he feels afterward, facing hitters and pitching in a game."
• Second baseman Brian Roberts, on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, hasn't been cleared to begin baseball activities. He is eligible to come off the DL on April 20, but he likely won't be ready by then.
Yankees: A-Rod allegations not an issue for Girardi
• Manager Joe Girardi said the latest bit of news about Alex Rodriguez and performance-enhancing-drug allegatons won't have an effect on the Yankees' clubhouse. Major League Baseball reportedly has uncovered evidence that Rodriguez arranged to have documents purchased from the Biogenesis clinic that has been the focal point of a PED-related investigation.
A spokesperson "flatly denied the allegations" on A-Rod's behalf, and Girardi hasn't discussed the situation with his club. Rodriguez has mostly been away from the Yankees this season while working his way back from arthroscopic left hip surgery.
"It's an MLB issue. That's my reaction," Girardi said. "Do I get a memo on my desk? No. I don't get a memo on my desk. I think everyone probably hears about it when you watch SportsCenter -- if you choose to watch SportsCenter -- but that's kind of the only way you kind of find out about it."
• Yankees DH Travis Hafner and outfielder Vernon Wells continued their hot starts to the season Saturday, as both blasted their third home runs of the season.
• Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte was originally slated to start Sunday's game but was scratched due to back spasms. Girardi said he would check with Pettitte to finalize a date for his next start, but he is in line to pitch either Tuesday or Wednesday against the D-backs.
• Orioles right-handers Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman will start Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in the first two games of Baltimore's series against Tampa Bay.