The Baltimore Orioles have a chance to finish the month of April atop the very tough American League East. However, to do so they must beat a team that has given them nothing but problems the past few seasons.
Tonight, the Orioles try to continue their hot start against the New York Yankees in the first of three games at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles enter tonight's tilt tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the division after taking two of three from the Oakland Athletics over the weekend, including a thrilling 5-2 win in Sunday's finale at Camden Yards.
Baltimore trailed Sunday's rubber match, 2-0, heading into the bottom of the ninth, but rallied back to even the game on Matt Wieters' two-run double. The O's then completed the stunning comeback, as Wilson Betemit's three-run home run gave them a 5-2 victory.
Pedro Strop (3-1) earned the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth and starter Tommy Hunter allowed both runs on seven hits over seven innings as the Orioles improved to 14-8 on the year, moving them six games over .500 for the first time since time since July 20, 2005.
"That was fun," remarked Baltimore manager Buck Showalter, who is now one win shy of 1,000 for his career. "I thought we played a real good defensive game, which is what kept us in the game."
Tonight, though, they face a Yankees team that has beaten them 40 times in the last 52 meetings and swept them in Baltimore earlier in the season.
Jason Hammel will try to reverse that trend, as he aims to continue his incredible start to the year. Hammel moved to 3-0 on Wednesday with a win over Toronto, as he scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.73.
"For a long time, it took me a while to build confidence," said Hammel. "I got hit around a bit. Only when I started to care about being a pitcher did my confidence go up. Obviously, the results are showing it. I know what I need to do to be successful -- use my fielders to make the plays and just continue to make the pitches."
Hammel has faced the Yankees 11 times (five starts) and is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA.
New York, meanwhile, enters this series 1 1/2 games back of both the Rays and Orioles, but comes in on a high note after taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. In Sunday's rubber match, CC Sabathia threw eight strong innings for his third straight win, leading the Yankees to a 6-2 victory.
Sabathia (3-0) struck out eight and gave up just four hits, two walks and two runs.
"He controlled the swings by his location and his changing of speeds," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones had solo homers for the Yankees, while Alex Rodriguez knocked in two runs to pass Willie Mays on the all-time RBI list.
The Yankees will hand the ball tonight to Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA. Kuroda lost his second straight start on Tuesday in Texas, but pitched well, as he surrendered two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"I was disappointed that I didn't get a win, but I tried my best and tried to keep the game close," said Kuroda, who has never faced the Orioles. "Hopefully, the next time I pitch, I will get a win."
The Yankees have posted double-digit win totals against the Orioles in 14 individual seasons since 1982.