NEW YORK — Holding any kind of lead in the American League East over the New York Yankees has been a rarity for the Baltimore Orioles, especially in July.
Baltimore can widen its lead over the Yankees on Monday night when it opens a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles are ahead of the Yankees through this point in the season for the second time in three years as they enter Monday 8 1/2 games up on fourth-place New York.
Two years ago, Baltimore won the division by 12 games but at this point was only four games ahead of the Yankees.
Since the franchise moved from St. Louis after the 1954 season, the Orioles have been in first place at this point 10 times. Four of those were 1966 and 1969 to 1971. Until 2014, Baltimore had not been in first place through games played of July 17 since 1997.
The Orioles missed a chance increase their lead with Sunday's 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay. Despite Baltimore's only runs coming on a home run by Pedro Alvarez and a sacrifice fly by Manny Machado, it has won six of eight games after struggling to do much against Jake Odorizzi on Sunday.
“It was more us scoring any runs today,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told reporters. “We had a couple opportunities and could have cashed in on and didn't.”
The Yankees will try to get to .500 for the ninth time since May 22. New York salvaged the finale of its three-game series with the Boston Red Sox with Sunday's 3-1 win.
Masahiro Tanaka did pitch and the Yankees scored their runs on a double by Starlin Castro and singles by Austin Romine and Jacoby Ellsbury during the fourth inning against David Price.
The Orioles (53-37) will look to match a season-high by going 17 games above .500 and Kevin Gausman will be on the mound. Gausman is 1-6 with a 4.14 ERA but has received the lowest run support (3.43) of any Orioles starting pitcher.
Gausman's only win was June 25 against Tampa Bay when he allowed four hits and struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings.
In his last two starts, Gausman has allowed seven earned runs and 16 hits in 11 innings. He has not pitched since allowing four runs and eight hits in five innings in a no-decision during a 6-4, 14-inning win at Los Angeles.
Gausman has eight no-decisions this season and two were against the Yankees. In Baltimore's 2-1, 10-inning victory on May 5, he allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings. A month later, he allowed one run and seven hits in six innings during a 3-1 win.
The Orioles' loss ensured the Yankees will not face a double-digit deficit in the AL East at this point for the first time since 1992.
“It's an important series,” New York right fielder Carlos Beltran said. “This homestand is important overall for us. I think this homestand will dictate what the future holds for a lot of guys here.”
Ivan Nova will be pitching on extended rest and the Yankees hope he can give them some better distance. He completed at least six innings in five straight starts from May 19 to June 9 but has failed to do so in his last five outings.
Nova has a 7.02 ERA in his last five appearances and finished the first half on July 7 in Cleveland when he allowed four runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The right-hander picked up a win over Baltimore in June when he allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings. Nova took a shutout into seventh before allowing home runs to Mark Trumbo and Alvarez.
Nova is 7-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 16 appearances against Baltimore.
Mark Teixeira will likely be out of the lineup for a few more days. The struggling first baseman fouled a ball of his left foot on Saturday and although x-rays and a CT scan came back negative, he still is sore.
The Orioles have won four of six meetings between the teams in Baltimore on May 3-5 and June 3-5. Baltimore won the last two in New York last season after dropping the first seven.