Owners of a three-game losing streak and a slumping offense, the last-place New York Yankees are in need of something to change their fortunes.
Perhaps the return of the reigning AL MVP will help.
New York’s slugging third baseman, who won his third AL MVP award last year after compiling 54 home runs and 156 RBIs, has been out since April 28 due to a quadriceps strain—his first stint on the disabled list since 2000.
But Rodriguez returned to New York after completing a rehabilitation assignment in Tampa on Monday. He was hitting .286 with four homers and 11 RBIs before the injury.
“I’m excited to get back into Yankee Stadium and playing baseball. It’s where I belong,” Rodriguez said.
Without him, a lineup that is also lacking injured catcher Jorge Posada has struggled. The Yankees (20-24) have scored two or fewer runs in five of their last six games, Johnny Damon is mired in a 2-for-25 slump and Jason Giambi is hitting .191.
After losing 11-2 at home to the New York Mets Sunday, the Yankees have lost three straight and eight of 11, falling into the AL East cellar. They haven’t dropped four in a row since last June, when the Orioles handed them their fourth straight defeat.
“We’re much better than what we’re showing,” Damon said. “Nothing should matter to this offense. We’ve got too many All-Stars around, too many talented players. We just need to be better.”
While the Yankees have been underachieving, the Orioles (23-20) have played well above expectations. They’ve shown a knack for coming from behind and winning close games, and they had won four straight before losing to Washington 2-1 Sunday.
“We’re having a good time this year. We had no expectations, and certainly (the media) didn’t give us any expectations,” designated hitter Aubrey Huff said. “We have nothing to lose. It’s go out there and play, have fun and leave it all out on the field.”
That also seems to be the attitude Daniel Cabrera has taken as he has put his perpetual control problems behind him. The Orioles are 7-1 when Cabrera (4-1, 3.58 ERA) has started, and the right-hander will be looking to win his third straight start for the first time since 2005 Tuesday.
After leading the AL in walks each of the past two seasons, he’s walked just one in 16 innings in his last two starts. He gave up 10 hits in seven innings Wednesday, but walked none and gave up just three runs, beating Boston.
He also beat the Yankees on April 18, allowing two hits in six innings and walking just two.
“He’s awesome,” second baseman Brian Roberts told his team’s official Web site. “I think that’s the guy we all expected him to be. I’ve told people many times (that) things click for different people at different times.”
He’ll face the former Oriole Mussina, who is looking to win his sixth straight start for the first time since 2003. In his last five outings, Mussina (6-3, 3.99) is 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA.
“Moose is just pitching like he’s capable of,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told his team’s official Web site. “He’s taking his stuff and he’s changing speeds.”
The Orioles won two of their three series at Yankee Stadium last year. They also took two of three from the Yankees in Baltimore last month.