The Baltimore Orioles can’t wait to get to Yankee Stadium.
Playing their best baseball of the season, the resurgent Orioles hope to test their mettle against the AL East-leading New York Yankees in the opener of a two-game series.
“If ever there was a time to face the Yankees, this is it,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said after Baltimore completed its first six-game win streak since June 2000.
The Orioles, 12-5 in July, are still 13 1/2 games in back of the Yankees for the division lead. Regardless of the standings, they are looking forward to this series.
“You’ve got to play the best when you’re playing hot, and we’re playing hot right now,” Baltimore’s Jeff Conine said.
The Yankees had the finale of their two-game set with Toronto postponed due to rain Tuesday. Andy Pettitte, Tuesday’s scheduled starter, will take the ball against the Orioles looking to extend his seven-start unbeaten streak.
Pettitte had a six-start winning streak halted against Cleveland on Thursday. He did not receive a decision in New York’s come-from-behind 5-4 win, yielding four runs and seven hits over seven innings.
Pettitte has dominated the Orioles during his career, going 15-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 23 appearances, including 22 starts.
New York had won five in a row prior to Monday’s rain-shortened 8-0 loss to Toronto, which shaved their lead in the AL East to just three games over second-place Boston.
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 13 1/2 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Helling (6-6, 5.47 ERA). Unbeaten in his last three starts, Helling is coming off a solid outing against Anaheim on Friday. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings, but did not receive a decision in Baltimore’s 6-5 win. Helling is 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA in nine career appearances, including eight starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Pettitte (11-6, 4.66 ERA). Pettitte beat the Orioles in Baltimore on June 30, yielding four runs and 10 hits over six innings in a 6-5 win.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Melvin Mora, .343 avg.; Tony Batista, 18 HRs; Conine and Gibbons, 69 RBIs; Mora and Conine, 58 runs; Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts, 14 SBs. Yankees - Hideki Matsui, .301 avg.; Jason Giambi, 28 HRs and 79 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 77 runs and 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - Baltimore is coming off its first 6-0 homestand since 1998. … The Orioles recalled LHP Eric DuBose from Triple-A Ottawa to fortify an overworked bullpen Tuesday. OF Jack Cust was optioned to Ottawa after Monday night’s game. … 3B Batista is hitting just .182 (4-for-22) in his career against LHP Pettitte. Yankees - The Yankees have averaged 53,218 fans their last 12 home games. … LHP Pettitte is 5-2 with a 4.08 ERA in nine home starts this year. … 1B Giambi is 6-for-19 (.316) with two homers and four RBIs in his career against RHP Helling.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 20-26 on the road; Yankees - 29-20 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; 2B Jerry Hairston Jr. (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL. Yankees - 1B-DH Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.
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