MLB

Orioles-Yankees Preview

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have apparently caught the Baltimore Orioles at the right time as they attempt to inch closer to first place in the American League East.

New York has capitalized on absences to Baltimore's lineup and a slump by those who are playing to take the first three games of the series.

The Yankees can get the four-game sweep of the Orioles on Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

"We've always felt that way," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said of making a run in the AL East. "It's a long season. I'm not sure exactly how many games are left, but there's a lot of games left and we never got too low when we were struggling early on in the season and we're not going to celebrate because we won four in a row because we got to go win tomorrow."

Baltimore has played three games without Chris Davis, who is slowly recovering from a stomach virus. The Orioles have played the last two without Matt Wieters (sore right foot), were without Manny Machado (stomach virus) on Wednesday and Adam Jones left in the eighth inning with back spasms.

Davis is likely to play and Jones left no doubt about his status, saying "I've got nothing else to do."

As for Wieters and Machado, acting manager John Russell said both are day to day. So is manager Buck Showalter, who also caught the stomach virus, but Russell would be surprised if Showalter wasn't making out the lineup Thursday.

"It's probably going to take a hurricane hitting New York for him not to be here tomorrow," Russell said.

Regardless of what the opposing lineup looks like, the Yankees will try to get a fifth straight win, which is one shy of their season high, and continue their run of good pitching.

During a four-game streak that has seen the Yankees (48-46) knock Baltimore from first place and match a season high by getting two games above .500, New York has received sharp performances from Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda.

"It's playoff baseball for us, and we have to play extremely well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think they're responding, especially after we lost two to start out this homestand. They responded well and we need them to keep doing that."

Pineda struck out eight and allowed five hits in six scoreless innings during Wednesday's 5-0 win. Starting with Tanaka, New York's starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs in the last 36 innings, marking the first time the Yankees have had four straight starts of one earned run or less since Sept. 18-21, 2003.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are experiencing adequate starting pitching but ineffective hitting. The Orioles are batting .267 overall but .187 (36-for-193) in their last six games and are 3-for-33 with runners in scoring position during those games.

"It's tough right now," Russell said. "We've lost some key guys in our lineup. When you lose that many at once, it makes it pretty tough and hopefully they'll start trickling back into the lineup sooner rather than later."

The Yankees are in line for their first four-game sweep of the Orioles since Sept. 18-21, 2005, at the original Yankee Stadium but must get enough offense against Chris Tillman (13-2, 3.29 ERA).

Tillman's record is 11 games above .500 for the first time since he was 16-5 after a win over the Yankees on Sept. 9, 2013. He also is 6-0 against teams from the AL East after allowing one run and four hits in seven dominant innings during Saturday's 2-1 win at Tampa Bay.

The Orioles are 9-0 in Tillman's starts against divisional opponents.

"Team wins are important," Tillman said. "All the personal stuff goes by the wayside when it comes to winning ballgames. That's our approach and it's good to be a part of it."

Two of those victories have been against the Yankees at Camden Yards.

On May 3, Tillman struck out nine while allowing one run and five hits in seven innings during a 4-1 win. A month later, he allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings and did not get a decision when his teammates rallied for a 6-5 win.

Tillman is 4-6 with a 4.87 ERA in 18 career starts against the Yankees.

In New York, he is 3-4 with a 7.30 ERA in eight outings.

CC Sabathia will be seeking his 20th career win against the Orioles and his 15th with the Yankees. More important, he will be looking to reverse some of his recent struggles.

Since June 22, he is 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA and during those starts he has allowed 39 hits and walked 10 in 28 1/3 innings.

Before lowering his ERA to 3.94 during the recent stretch, Sabathia had a 0.82 ERA in a span of seven starts and was the first Yankee to allow four earned runs or less in a span of seven starts since Phil Niekro did it in 1984 at age 45.

The latest subpar outing for Sabathia was Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox when he allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Sabathia faced the Orioles twice when the teams met in Baltimore. On May 4, he allowed six hits in seven innings during a 7-0 victory while suffering a groin injury. On June 5, he allowed two hits but walked six in five innings and the Yankees eventually lost 3-1.

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