Wilson Betemit reacts to fouling off a ball as New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin looks on. The Yankees won, 2-1. (ADAM HUNGER/REUTERS)

As smoothly as this season has started for the Baltimore Orioles, they know they’ll not be considered serious threats in the American League East if they can’t beat the New York Yankees.

On Monday, in their first trip to new Yankee Stadium this season, the red-hot Orioles once again received an outstanding pitching performance from Jason Hammel but couldn’t score for him in a 2-1 loss.

Heading into the night, the Orioles (14-9) were winners of six of seven. But they are winless in four games this year against their ultimate divisional foe.

The loss also kept Orioles Manager Buck Showalter from picking up his 1,000th win.

Hammel made just one mistake early — a 94-mph, belt-high fastball that Eric Chavez punished in the second inning. The two-run homer, Chavez’s third home run of the season, nearly cleared the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center.

Entering the game with a 1.73 ERA, third best in the American League among qualifiers, Hammel continued his exceptional April.

He lasted six innings, allowing five hits, two walks and two earned runs while striking out five. It was his fourth quality start in five outings, and he has yet to give up more than two earned runs as an Oriole.

Before the game, Showalter predicted Hammel would pitch well against the formidable Yankees’ lineup, which was missing Orioles nemesis Nick Swisher, who is out with a left hamstring strain.

“Jason will have a tough outing at some point this year. And he’ll respond well to it,” said Showalter. “But I’m not expecting it tonight, I’m expecting good things. But we still got to catch the baseball and score some runs.”

The Orioles had won 57 consecutive games when their opponents had scored two runs or fewer. They also were 12-1 when their starter had gone at last six innings before Monday’s loss.

But they couldn’t do much damage against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-3), who entered the night 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA.

Kuroda, the 37-year-old Japanese right-hander whom the Yankees signed as a free agent this offseason from the Los Angeles Dodgers, gave up just four hits, one walk and one run in seven innings.

He allowed more than one base runner just once. In the seventh, the Orioles failed to score despite getting runners on second and third with one out. Kuroda struck out Chris Davis – who was nearly safe when the ball squirted away from catcher Russell Martin — and uncorked a wild pitch with Wilson Betemit at the plate.

The ball bounced off Martin’s chest and beyond the dirt encircling home plate. Martin got to it quickly and flipped the ball to Kuroda, who tagged a diving Nick Markakis for the inning’s final out.

“It’s a good play, good play,” Showalter said. “They have to make a great play to get him out. I would be upset if he wasn’t aggressive and trying to do something there in a close ballgame like that. Usually, the aggressor wins.”

Yankees relievers David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (fifth save) held the Orioles scoreless to preserve Kuroda’s win.

— Baltimore Sun