For most of this season, it looked like the wild card would be the only way into the playoffs for the New York Yankees. The AL East title, however, has recently become a distinct possibility.
The surging Yankees look to keep the pressure on division-leading Boston when they complete a three-game series Wednesday night against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
“We’ve still got work,” manager Joe Torre said. “We cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in what people will assume is a foregone conclusion.”
Seeking its 10th straight division title, New York has four home games left with Toronto before closing the regular season on the road against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
New York also moved 4 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the wild-card race. The Yankees have won 11 of 13 since their wild-card lead was cut to one game over Seattle after losing to the Mariners on Sept. 3.
Tuesday marked the fourth time this month and the 21st time this season that the Yankees scored in double digits. They are averaging 6.3 runs in 16 September games.
Mientkiewicz was activated from the disabled list Sept. 1 after missing much of the season with a broken right wrist. He is batting .462 (6-for-13) with six RBIs since he rejoined the club.
“I’m just trying to stay within the game and whatever’s needed at that given moment, just sort of do it and just do your job,” Mientkiewicz said.
The Orioles, losers of 21 of 27, were shut out for the third time this month after scoring at least one run in 133 straight games.
Baltimore (64-86) is 8-6 against New York this year, and is trying to win the season series for the first time since 1997.
Andy Pettitte (13-8, 3.89 ERA) tries again for his 200th victory after struggling in his first attempt. The 13-year veteran gave up five runs - four earned - and nine hits in four innings Friday at Boston, throwing 101 pitches in his shortest start since July 1. The Yankees, though, got Pettitte off the hook by rallying from a five-run deficit for an 8-7 victory.
He is 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA in his last three starts after allowing three runs or fewer in each of his previous 10 outings.
Pettitte is 20-6 with a 3.73 ERA in 32 appearances, including 30 starts, against the Orioles. The 20 wins are his most versus any opponent.
He is 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts this year against them.
Recently moved back into the rotation, Brian Burres (6-5, 5.47 ERA) responded with his best start of the season his last time out. The left-hander allowed eight hits in seven scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory Friday at Toronto. He struck out four and did not walk a batter for the first time in 14 starts this season.
Before Friday, Burres’ last win came against the Yankees on July 28, when he limited them to one run and four hits in six innings of a 7-5 victory at Camden Yards.
He is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in five career appearances versus New York.