Orioles host Yanks with chance to slice wild-card deficit
BALTIMORE — The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles open a huge three-game series with playoff implications on Monday at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (70-67) trail the Yankees by 3 1/2 games and the Twins by 1 1/2 in the American League wild-card standings after splitting a four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. New York and Minnesota currently occupy the two AL wild-card spots.
The Yankees (73-63) took three of four games against the first-place Boston Red Sox, capped by a 9-2 win Sunday night, to close within 3 1/2 games of the AL East lead.
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New York knows it controls its own destiny for the postseason. A successful series in Baltimore would be another big step in that direction.
“There’s been less talented teams than this win the World Series,” Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday said. “I look around and see the potential. We currently sit in a playoff position, and hopefully we can make it easier on ourselves and get in a better position.”
Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy, who pitches Monday, is coming off his best month as a starter. Bundy (13-8, 3.94 ERA) went 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in five starts in August. In his most recent outing, Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners, Bundy threw a one-hitter for his first career shutout. He also set a career high with 12 strikeouts while walking just two.
Bundy, who is pitching his first full season as a starter, has struck out 10 or more in three of his past four starts.
“You’ve got to win games, so we’ve just got to win as many games as we can,” said Bundy, who is 2-2 with a 4.44 ERA in six career appearances, including four starts, against the Yankees.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was named the American League Player of the Month for August. Machado batted .341 and led the AL with 35 RBIs. He also hit 12 homers, tying Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez for the most in the league.
Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy, who received a cortisone injection in his elbow Friday, could be available at some point in the series.
On Sunday, the Orioles managed to beat Toronto 5-4 in 12 innings despite going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said his team did a good job staying focused and not getting frustrated.
“You can’t sit here and talk about all the contributions and things that had to happen to get to that opportunity,” Showalter said. “You had some situations where you look like you’re going to push it across and you let that snowball. You can’t let things snowball, especially this time of year where something negative happens, and when something positive happens get comfortable with it. The players are just too good.”
New York will start rookie Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15 ERA) on Monday. It was less clear who the Yankees would use to catch Montgomery with Gary Sanchez starting a three-game suspension.
Sanchez, who has 28 home runs and occupies the third spot in the order frequently, had his suspension reduced by one game and issued an apology Monday morning. Sanchez landed punches during the fracas with the Detroit Tigers that led to Miguel Cabrera’s suspension.
Sanchez will miss the entire three-game set.
In his latest outing, Montgomery took the loss against the Cleveland Indians when he allowed four runs and six hits over just four innings on Wednesday.
Montgomery’s teammates have not lost confidence in him. He already has had some success against the Orioles, going 1-1 with a 3.31 ERA in three starts.
“We’re going to need him,” first baseman Greg Bird said.
New York, however, experienced a setback Sunday when outfielder Aaron Hicks was placed on the 10-day disabled with an oblique strain. Hicks is batting .265 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs over 82 games.
“Our hope is that when we get back from this road trip that he will be able to start swinging a bat,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is our hope.”