Orioles-Yankees Preview

The AL East race appeared to be all but over when the New York

Yankees opened a 10-game cushion two weeks ago.

Some poor play and a few injuries later, the division seems far

from decided.

Looking to record their first three-game sweep in the Bronx in

more than 26 years, the Baltimore Orioles can also shave another

game off the Yankees’ East lead Wednesday afternoon.

A third division title in four seasons seemed a foregone

conclusion July 18, after New York extended its lead to 10

following a ninth win in 11 games. That now seems premature with

the Yankees (60-43) having lost four straight and nine of 12 while

dealing with injuries to Alex Rodriguez (broken hand) and team RBI

leader Mark Teixeira (wrist).

The skid continued in unlikely fashion Tuesday night.

New York scored five times in the first inning but Baltimore

(55-49) answered with seven runs of its own in the second – capped

by Chris Davis’ go-ahead grand slam – en route to an 11-5 victory.

Nick Markakis had his second straight three-hit game – including a

homer – and Wilson Betemit has gone 5 for 8 with three RBIs in this

series to help the Orioles get within 5 1/2 games of the


“It felt like the first inning would never end,” Davis said.

“And then we were able to come out there and take back the momentum

and really quiet the crowd.”

Baltimore is a win away from its first three-game sweep at New

York since June 6-8, 1986. A victory would also give the Orioles

five wins in the Bronx in a season for the first time since


After totaling three runs in a three-game stretch, Baltimore has

averaged 6.3 in its last six contests. Markakis is batting .364 (28

for 77) since the All-Star break while Davis is 9 for 26 with three

homers and 10 RBIs in his last six games.

New York hasn’t dropped five in a row since a six-game skid May

11-16, 2011.

“We’re not stressing it,” the Yankees’ Nick Swisher said.

“We’ve just got to come out here, we’ve got to keep continuing to

pound and grind and just try to win some ballgames.”

Although Teixeira hopes to return Friday, the Yankees acquired

third baseman Casey McGehee from Pittsburgh on Tuesday for reliever

Chad Qualls. McGehee, who can also play first, was batting .230

with eight homers and 35 RBIs with the Pirates.

Zach Britton (1-0, 5.74 ERA) will try to pitch the Orioles to

the sweep as he makes his fourth start of 2012. The left-hander

followed a dismal season debut by pitching four-hit ball over six

scoreless innings in a 4-3 victory at Cleveland on July 22.

He was unable to notch a second consecutive strong outing,

allowing six runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings against Oakland on

Friday, but escaped without a decision in Baltimore’s 14-9


Britton is 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA in two starts in the Bronx,

while he’s allowed one unearned run over 14 innings in two outings

against the Yankees at home.

Phil Hughes (10-8, 4.08) tries to continue his run of solid

outings for New York.

The right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA in his last six starts

while limiting opponents to a .219 average. He gave up three solo

homers over seven innings but was almost untouchable otherwise in a

10-3 win over Boston on Friday.

Hughes, whose 25 homers allowed rank among the major league

leaders, is 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA in his past eight home starts. Not

included in that stretch was a matchup with the Orioles on May 1,

when he allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss.