At the outset of Sunday night’s game, Francisco Cervelli had a realization: Hiroki Kuroda’s sinker would be his workhorse pitch. Once Cervelli saw how well it was moving, he rode it as much as he could.

"I say, ‘I gotta take advantage,’" Cervelli said. "Keep calling, keep calling and that’s it."

One hundred thirteen pitches later — 53 of them sinkers according to — Kuroda struck out Baltimore slugger Chris Davis to secure a 3-0 Yankees’ victory.

In the win, the right-hander was marvelous. He was not so much dominant as efficient, spinning his way through the Orioles’ lineup for a shutout. Kuroda allowed just five hits and struck out five batters with pinpoint control.

Afterward, it was his sinker that drew praise. Manager Joe Girardi called it "excellent" and had no doubt about sending him out to pitch the ninth inning. Cervelli was reliant on it in his pitch-calling. The Orioles struggled to hit it.

Kuroda was modest about his effort Sunday night. Brett Gardner said his performance reminded him of Andy Pettitte, calling it fun to see Kuroda work.

"He’s got outstanding command," Girardi said. "He can read swings, he can change speeds."

Kuroda’s precision was necessary on a chilly night in which, for the most part, the Yankees hitters were kept at bay by Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. He allowed three runs in six innings.

The offense was generated by their spark plug in center field, Brett Gardner, who belted a two-run homer. Jayson Nix, the third-string shortstop, also drove in a run — though he also committed a ninth-inning error.

Scrappy and determined, these Yankees have kept themselves a game over .500 — after a 1-4 start — while awaiting the return of their injured stars.