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Orioles-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees were already surging and knocking on the door of first place in the AL East before their series opener against the Baltimore Orioles.

A thrilling come-from-behind victory will only send their confidence higher.

New York looks to match its longest win streak of the season Saturday when this three-game set continues in the Bronx.

After opening this month with six losses in eight games, the Yankees (39-33) were third in the division and a season-high 6 1/2 games out of first place on June 9. The ensuing 8-2 stretch that includes a three-game sweep of division-leading Toronto has moved them into sole possession of second and within 1 1/2 games of the Blue Jays.

Friday's 5-3 victory was the most improbable of the recent wins. Slumping Carlos Beltran connected for a three-run walkoff homer with two outs in the ninth inning, giving the Yankees their fourth straight win and first this season in their final at-bat.

"Thank God the past couple of days I would say I've been feeling more comfortable at the plate and I've been putting good at-bats together," said Beltran, who entered Friday batting .221. "I just felt confident that I was going to do something positive."

New York, which won five straight April 12-17, received another strong outing from a starting pitcher. Hiroki Kuroda took a no-hitter into the sixth and allowed two runs in six innings, lowering the rotation's ERA to 2.63 during the four-game streak.

Getting another strong start could be difficult with Vidal Nuno (1-3, 5.90 ERA) taking the mound.

The left-hander had the worst start of his career Sunday at Oakland, allowing eight runs and eight hits over three-plus innings in a 10-5 loss.

The Yankees have lost each of his last five home starts, with Nuno going 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA. Home runs at Yankee Stadium have been a big problem, as he's allowed one in each outing there and nine total in 35 2-3 innings.

In two relief appearances over 3 1-3 innings against the Orioles, he's been reached for eight runs and nine hits - three homers.

Friday's disheartening loss dropped Baltimore (37-35) to 6-5 during a 13-game stretch against division opponents after closer Zach Britton surrendered four earned runs in the ninth. He had allowed three in his first 37 2-3 innings this season.

"It is frustrating. These are games we want to win right now but you just have to turn the page," Britton said. "You cannot just sit here and mope about it. Go out there and make the adjustment."

Red-hot Steve Pearce provided the bulk of the Orioles' offense with two hits and two RBIs. He's 6 for 12 with four doubles, a homer and five RBIs in his last three games, raising his season average to .327.

Baltimore's rotation has also been outstanding lately, posting a 2.06 ERA in the past 11 games.

Bud Norris (6-5, 3.73) has been a key figure in that run, winning his last three starts and allowing one run and 10 hits over 14 2-3 innings in the past two. He tossed 6 2-3 innings and limited Toronto to one run in a 3-2 victory last Saturday.

Pitching away from home, though, has been a struggle for Norris, who is 2-4 with a 5.23 ERA in seven road outings compared to a 4-1 mark and 2.21 ERA in six at home.

The right-hander has never faced the Yankees, but he's plenty familiar with Beltran, who is 8 for 24 with five doubles in their matchups.

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