The Baltimore Orioles are arriving in the Bronx with a chance to leave town with a share of first place.
The Orioles will look to further trim the New York Yankees' three-game AL East lead Friday night in the opener of a three-game set.Baltimore (72-58) is brimming with confidence after winning 20 of its last 29 games and capping a 5-1 homestand with Thursday's 5-3 win over the White Sox."Our guys aren't going up there to experience the atmosphere," manager Buck Showalter said. "They're going to try to compete with the team we're trying to catch."The mood is different for New York (75-55), which led the division by 10 games over the Orioles on July 18. The Yankees are 18-21 since."It's baseball. You look forward to the series (against Baltimore)," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You got a chance to put more space between you and them."The Orioles are 24-6 in one-run games, winning 13 straight such contests to set a franchise record. They have taken five of the last seven meetings with the Yankees after losing the first four 2012 matchups."Trust me, this group is going to have fun with it," said Showalter about the pennant race.The Yankees are losers of six of nine after dropping two of three this week at home to last-place Toronto. Their next 10 games are against the teams right behind them in the division, with a road trip beginning next Monday against third-place Tampa Bay followed by a visit to Camden Yards.New York is worried first about this series."We've got to bring it against the Orioles this weekend, for sure," catcher Russell Martin said. "It's a big one."The Yankees will give the ball to their best 2012 starter, Hiroki Kuroda (12-9, 2.98 ERA). The right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.66 ERA over his last eight outings, posting his third complete game Saturday in a 3-1 defeat at Cleveland.Kuroda has been particularly dominant at home lately, going 3-1 with a 0.94 ERA in his past five starts at Yankee Stadium.He won his lone career matchup with the Orioles on April 30, yielding one run in seven innings of a 2-1 home victory.New York will be without injured sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira for this series, with Steve Pearce getting a pair of starts this week. Pearce, traded from New York to Baltimore on June 2 and re-acquired by the Yankees from Houston on Monday, will likely face the Orioles for the first time.Derek Jeter, who leads the majors with 176 hits, is batting .438 in the season series while Curtis Granderson has homered five times.Nick Swisher has batted .167 in his last 11 games against Baltimore, but the outfielder is hitting .349 with 21 RBIs over his last 22 games.The Yankees will get their second look at rookie right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.66), who won at New York on July 30 by allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-4 victory. The Orioles have won six of his nine starts.Gonzalez hasn't taken the mound since Aug. 20, when he gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss at Texas.Matt Wieters will be back behind the plate after Showalter gave him Thursday off. Wieters is mired in an 8-for-51 slump, but he's hit safely in all 11 of his games against New York this season while batting .429.Yankees pitchers have yet to face Nate McLouth this year. McLouth has been the latest unsung hero for the Orioles, scoring 10 runs and driving in seven over his last 10 games.