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Hiroki Kuroda shuts out Orioles, 3-0

Hiroki Kuroda pumps his fist after pitching a

Hiroki Kuroda pumps his fist after pitching a complete game shutout against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (April 14, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

It could be that a touch of gray suits the Yankees and their years and years of rich history. Behind 38-year-old righthander Hiroki Kuroda's five-hitter, the Yankees administered a 3-0 tutorial to the Baltimore Orioles Sunday night.

There is no getting around the fact that their current collection of players makes the Yankees the oldest team in Major League Baseball -- average age 31 -- and that there may be a thin line between seasoned and worn-out.

But so far in this young season, the presence of some old baseball hands has provided a sort of natural anti-aging secret in the face of lost manpower.

Kuroda (2-1) never walked a batter and didn't allow a Baltimore runner past first base until there were two outs in the ninth, the result of Jayson Nix's error and a groundout.

And that was more than enough in a game of mostly quiet bats. Anything past first base was uncharted territory for either team until Brennan Boesch and Francisco Cervelli stroked back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth against Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen. Boesch went to third on Lyle Overbay's lineout to deep rightfield and scored on Nix's sacrifice fly to right.

Brett Gardner immediately joined the fun by lining a two-run homer off the top of the rightfield foul pole, and the Yankees, their offense practically starved on two hits and a walk through the first four innings, at least enjoyed one inning of gluttony.

"It's nice to be able to come through like that," Gardner said. And "fun," he said, to watch Kuroda pitch from centerfield.

"A lot like [Andy] Pettitte," Gardner said. "He's such a professional. Throws strikes early in the count and makes my work out there a whole lot easier."

Through an interpreter, Kuroda said he "wasn't thinking about a shutout or complete game, just trying to get out one hitter at a time."

By doing that so quickly and needing only 113 pitches, "that's why I continued to let him go out there,'' Joe Girardi said.

"It's important for a guy, everyone, to feel they're on top of their game, and I don't know how you can feel much better than what he did tonight."

With five wins in their last six games, the Yankees are feeling pretty good as a whole. Perhaps their list of incapacitated and walking wounded inaccurately accentuates the negative.

Derek Jeter, 38; Alex Rodriguez, 37; Mark Teixeira, 33, and Curtis Granderson, 32, are on the disabled list. Pettitte, 40, will next pitch Friday after missing a turn because his back locked up on him last week.

In Sunday night's starting lineup, six of the nine Yankees hitters, like Kuroda, were over 30. Counting the healthy and unsound, seven of their eight infielders are over 30, as are four of their six outfielders. (The other two are 28 and 29.)

Still, there are those productive old newcomers. Kevin Youkilis, 34, is hitting .333 with two home runs and seven RBIs as a temporary fix at third for Rodriguez. DH Travis Hafner, 35, has similar numbers -- .303, three, seven. At 36, Overbay (.282, one, six) is filling in for Teixeira. Vernon Wells, 34, has fit right into the outfield (.324, three, five) with Granderson out.

And when Girardi was down to the No. 4 man on his shortstop depth chart Saturday -- second baseman Robinson Cano -- Granderson volunteered: "Hey, I played short in high school. Sophomore year."

That was in the previous century.

New York Sports