NEW YORK — A year ago, an awful April doomed the New York Yankees and forced them to spend the rest of the year attempting to gain ground in an unsuccessful playoff pursuit.
This year, a stellar opening month is helping the Yankees immensely.
New York looks to cap a strong April by a completing a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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After Aaron Judge hit his 10th home run, Brett Gardner homered twice and Austin Romine drove in career-high five RBIs in Saturday’s 12-4 win, the Yankees are 14-3 in their last 17 games following a 1-4 start.
“I feel like we’ve gotten off to a great start to the season, but it’s up to us to keep it going,” Gardner said.
Judge has totaled 10 home runs, 22 runs scored and 11 walks to go along with a .301 average and .393 on-base percentage. His numbers are part of the reason for New York’s best 22-game start since also going 15-7 in the first 22 games of the 2010 season.
“You think about where we were a year ago and we were really struggling,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “And you think about where we were the first five games and we were really struggling.
“It’s good to see that we’re playing a lot better and we need to continue to do that. These are important games.”
It’s also a stark reversal of last season when the Yankees stumbled to an 8-14 start through the end of April. New York ultimately wound up starting 8-17 and did not get its 16th win until beating the Chicago White Sox on May 15.
The Yankees have 15 wins before May for the first time since 2013 and 10th time since 1988. The only three times in that span that New York reached 16 wins by the end of April were 2013, 2003 and 1998.
The Orioles have been outscored 22-4 since the top of the seventh inning Friday, when they held an 11-4 lead. Baltimore clinched its first series loss Saturday and is on its second losing streak of the season.
Despite allowing eight home runs and 26 runs in the first two games, the Orioles (14-8) matched their best start since 2006 (also 14-8 in 2012).
However, the rough showings by their bullpen Friday and starter Ubaldo Jimenez on Saturday raised the team ERA to 4.24. It also means that Baltimore will make at least one move to add another arm to its bullpen, which entered the series as the fifth-best in the majors.
“We weren’t able to put anything together today,” Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. “Pitchers had a rough time, hitters had a rough time. But the thing about it is our pitchers have kept us in the game for the most part this entire month. They’ve really been the main reason why we’re in the spot we are, so we’re not going to hit the panic button or try to reinvent the wheel with these guys.
Rookie Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.78) will make his fourth start and do so on six days of rest. A week ago in Pittsburgh, he allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 2-1 loss.
Montgomery will be making his third home start. He picked up a no-decision in his major league debut against Tampa Bay on April 12 and recorded his first win with six-plus effective innings against the Chicago White Sox on April 17.
Wade Miley (1-1, 2.08 ERA) will make his second start against the Yankees this season. He took a no-decision on April 9 in Baltimore, allowing one hit but tying a career-high with seven walks in five innings of an eventual 7-3 Yankees’ win.
The left-hander has been inconsistent with the strike zone through four starts. After facing the Yankees, he issued one walk in his next 14 innings in starts against the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds but permitted six free passes in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Miley is facing the Yankees for the fourth time since joining the Orioles in a trade from the Seattle Mariners. In eight lifetime starts against New York, he is 0-3 with a 4.96 ERA and it includes a no-decision in a 19-inning win for the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 10, 2015.