W2W4: Orioles at Yankees (Aug. 31)

Hiroki Kuroda stats to watch

Kuroda has allowed four hits or fewer in each of his last three starts. He and Tigers ace Justin Verlander are the only pitchers to have three straight starts of eight innings or more, allowing four hits or fewer this season.

The last Yankee with three straight such starts before Kuroda was Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez in 1998. It's been a long time since a Yankee had four starts in a row of this nature: Art Ditmar in 1959.

Orioles right-handed hitters were 1-for-12 in their meeting with Kuroda on April 30 (in which he allowed one run and four hits in seven innings). That might lead to Buck Showalter trying a lefty-heavy lineup.

The last two Kuroda opponents have done that -- their lefties have gone 6-for-43, albeit with a pair of home runs. His fastball got the most lefties out than it did all season against the Indians (14).

Miguel Gonzalez stats to watch

Gonzalez allowed four runs in five innings in his last start, a loss to the Rangers, but in the three prior to that, he allowed three runs in 21 innings.

Gonzalez won his only start against the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium on July 30, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez's weakness is against lefties, who have a .353 on-base-percentage against him, compared to a .295 from right-handed hitters.

Gonzalez's out pitch is his fastball, which typically ranges from 90 to 92 mph. It's gotten him nearly two-thirds of his outs this season. The typical pitcher gets about half of his outs with his heater.

How do you get Nick Markakis out?

Since returning from injury at the All-Star Break, Markakis has been the Orioles' best hitter. He's hitting .333 with a .500 slugging percentage and five home runs. He has missed on only eight percent of his swings, the second-best rate in baseball (trailing only Marco Scutaro of the Rockies).

He went 7-for-14 with a home run in the Orioles last series against the Yankees.

Since it is difficult to strike Markakis out, what's the best way to get him to turn contact into an out?

Markakis doesn't fare well against fastballs from righties in the upper-third of the strike zone and above (2-for-12 when he hits them since the All-Star break) and changeups in the lower-third of the strike zone and below (3-for-17 when hitting them since the break).

Since Kuroda doesn't throw a changeup, his alternative on the latter may be the splitter. Markakis has seen 26 splitters this season, and has made four outs without recording a hit against them.

Be wary of the one-run game

The Orioles have won a franchise-record 13 straight one-run games (by contrast, the Yankees are 16-19 in one-run games this season).

The key to that has been the work of the Baltimore bullpen, particularly the two late-inning relievers- Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson.

Among the 16 relievers who have faced at least 50 batters protecting a one-run lead this season, Strop and Johnson rank 1-2 in opponents' batting average (.140 and .141 respectively) and 2-3 in opponents' slugging percentage (Johnson .172, Strop .209).

By comparison, Rafael Soriano, who has been very good this season, ranks 13th (.246 batting average) and 12th out of 16 (.368 slugging percentage) in those two stats.