(AP) — It’s been five seasons since the New York Yankees swept a three-game home set from the Baltimore Orioles and if they end that drought Thursday, it would deal another blow to the defending AL East champions.
The first-place Yankees have shown a recent penchant for winning one-run games and will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound as they look to push the Orioles seven games behind them.
New York (52-41) has gone 4-1 in one-run games since the All-Star break, winning 3-2 on Tuesday and 4-3 on Wednesday to begin this series. The Orioles haven’t suffered a three-game sweep in the Bronx since June 1-3, 2010.
“These are important series because it gives you an opportunity to put some distance between you and the clubs in your division,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Baltimore (46-47) has dropped 11 of 15 to fall below .500 for the second time since June 11, though it’s unclear if the club will turn into a seller before the trade deadline with eight prospective free agents on the roster. Before Wednesday’s defeat, vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the Orioles will be buyers.
“We know we are capable of better,” manager Buck Showalter said. “For people who live in a minute-to-minute world, I guess they’re concerned. We’re not.”
A strong outing by Tanaka (6-3, 3.65 ERA) could change his thinking. The Yankees are 9-3 in the right-hander’s starts, including four straight victories.
Tanaka won his second start in a row Friday by giving up three runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings in a 4-3 home win over Seattle. He’s 6-0 in seven starts when getting at least three runs of support.
He hasn’t faced the Orioles this year after going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two 2014 starts against them. Jonathan Schoop went 2 for 6 with two homers in those games while Chris Davis was 1 for 6 with three strikeouts.
Davis, one of Baltimore’s impending free agents, hit his 20th homer Wednesday and Ryan Flaherty had a two-run shot. Davis, however, is 9 for 46 in the season series with three homers and 21 strikeouts.
“It’s kind of the same thing we’ve been challenged with, a couple home runs but we really don’t mount anything,” Showalter said.
Matt Wieters is 1 for 7 in this series and figures to be back behind the plate after serving as the designated hitter Wednesday.
However, things didn’t go well for Ubaldo Jimenez (7-5, 3.29) when Wieters was his catcher Friday, getting shelled for a season-high seven runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-3 defeat at Detroit.
“I didn’t have my slider at all, and the splitter was good at times and then it wasn’t doing anything at other times,” Jimenez said.
The right-hander had surrendered one run in 20 innings over his previous three starts with Caleb Joseph behind the plate for all of them. Joseph is 15 for 30 versus New York this season.
Jimenez allowed three runs in five-plus innings in an 11-3 win over the Yankees on June 12 to improve to 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA in four starts against them with the Orioles. He hasn’t lasted past the sixth inning in his last six versus New York.
Carlos Beltran is 7 for 18 with two homers off Jimenez, Jacoby Ellsbury is 5 for 9 and Alex Rodriguez is 3 for 6.
Rodriguez drilled a 455-homer in the fifth inning Wednesday to give him 16 seasons with at least 20.