The last time the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles met, the Yankees were pulling up the rear in the AL East. A fast start out of the All-Star break, though, has New York making a run for its 14th straight playoff appearance.
The Yankees look to win 11 straight at home for the first time in over 23 years and regroup from their first loss in two weeks as they open a three-game series against the last-place Orioles on Monday.
New York (58-46) stumbled out of the gate this season, and after dropping two of three at Baltimore from May 26-28, the Yankees were in last place in the East.
New York didn’t stay down for long, though, as its recent play at home has helped it amass the majors’ third-best overall record (32-19) since that series with the Orioles.
The Yankees won their first eight games after the break, sweeping a six-game homestand against Oakland and Minnesota before taking the first two games of their weekend series in Boston.
Third-place New York, which has made the playoffs each year since 1995, saw that run come to an end with Sunday’s 9-2 loss to the Red Sox. The Yankees were as many as nine games out on July 6, but are now three behind division-leading Tampa Bay.
Mike Mussina (13-6, 3.26 ERA) has been a big part of New York’s turnaround and takes the ball Monday against his former team.
Mussina has allowed one run in 14 innings in winning his two starts since the break, and is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts this month.
The right-hander gave up six hits and struck out seven in eight shutout innings of a 5-1 win over the Twins on Wednesday, leading the Yankees to their 10th straight victory at home. New York hasn’t won 11 in a row at Yankee Stadium since a 12-game run from April 25-June 1, 1985.
“Without Moose, I don’t know where we’d be,” manager Joe Girardi told the team’s official Web site. “He’s been the leader on the staff. Each start, it almost seems like he’s getting better and better.”
While Mussina has been red-hot lately, he had one of the worst starts of his career in a 12-2 loss to the Orioles (49-55) on May 20. A two-out throwing error by Derek Jeter sparked a Baltimore rally, as Mussina was tagged for seven runs - one earned - in two-thirds of an inning, matching the shortest start of his 18-year career.
Mussina is 1-3 with a 6.18 ERA in six starts against the Orioles since 2006.
Johnny Damon has had much better success against Baltimore lately, as he’s hitting .533 (16-for-30) with two home runs and eight RBIs in his last seven games versus the Orioles.
Alex Rodriguez, who is 11-for-22 with a home run and six RBIs in his last six games, is batting .372 (16-for-43) with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 12 home games against the Orioles since last season.
Baltimore defeated the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak and win for just the fifth time in 19 games. The Orioles also ended a run of 15 straight losses in Sunday games.
Baltimore, which is 12 games out of first, opens a nine-game road trip and plays 16 of its next 19 away from home.
“It’s just a big win for us, heading on the road,” closer George Sherrill told the team’s official Web site. “Hopefully, we can win a couple series and start getting back on the winning track.”
Second baseman Brian Roberts is 7-for-40 (.175) in 10 games since the break, and may have trouble getting back on track at Yankee Stadium, where he is batting only .163 (7-for-43) in 12 games since last season.
Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 3.58) will start for Baltimore Monday.
Guthrie allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-1 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, his first defeat since June 12. His outing was cut short by rain, as the game was suspended with two outs in the sixth and completed the next day.
In Guthrie’s only start of the season against the Yankees on May 28, the right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings of a 4-2 loss.