Yankees End First Half With Important Series At Baltimore
One final series before Major League Baseball takes a three-day break for the 2014 All-Star festivities at Target Field in Minnesota. This series could prove important as the Yankees will play a three-game set in Baltimore against the first place Orioles.
The Yankees currently sit in third place, four games behind the O’s. Baltimore comes into the series playing very good baseball. They have won eight of their last ten. The Yankees on the other hand, have been up and down, winning half of their past ten contests.
A three game sweep would pull New York within one game. Being swept would drop them seven games back entering the break. The Yankees must avoid that.
Hiroki Kuroda will be matched up against Miguel Gonzalez in the series opener tonight.
Kuroda, the lone starter left from the Yankees opening day rotation, is 6-6 with a 4.20 ERA this season. He is coming off a tough start against Minnesota where he got the win, but surrendered four earned runs in just 5.2 innings against the Twins. This will be his third start against Baltimore this season. He is 1-0 and has given up just four runs in 12.1 innings against the Orioles this season.
Gonzalez is coming off his best performance, when he gave up just one earned run in eight innings against Boston on Saturday. He struck out six in the contest. Gonzalez is 4-5 with a 4.22 ERA this season. Back in early April, Gonzalez took a no-decision against the Yankees, going six innings, giving up seven hits and three runs.
The Orioles offense has been hot of late as well, particularly Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz. In the past week, Machado is hitting a team high .522 with two doubles and two home runs. Cruz, in that same span, is hitting .444 with three doubles, two home runs, and has six RBI.
After Kuroda, the Yankees will send Shane Greene to the mound in Game 2 against Ubaldo Jimenez. New York has not announced a starter for the series finale on Sunday. With Masahiro Tanaka now on the DL, the Yankees have a rotation spot that will need to be filled. A likely candidate is Chase Whitley. Baltimore will have Chris Tillman on the mound on Sunday.
It’s been a struggle offensively for the Yankees, for most of the season. They will need to score runs in this series however. With the pitching rotation in shambles, scoring runs will be extra important. In the past week, Ichiro Suzuki has been the teams top hitter, batting at a .357 clip. Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts follow right behind at .333 during that same span. Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .287 this past week with two doubles and two home runs.
A good outing from Kuroda would be huge for the Yankees, setting the tone for the series and keeping the bullpen ready for the next two games. This team is not built to make a big come back run up the standings, so staying in the race is extremely important.
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