CC Sabathia has spent the majority of his career dominating the Baltimore Orioles. This hasn't been a typical season, however, and that applies to the New York Yankees ace.
Sabathia will try to avoid going winless in three consecutive starts for the first time this year as the Yankees seek to extend their slim AL East lead over the Orioles on Saturday night.
After a wild 10-6 loss in the series opener dropped New York into a tie with Baltimore atop the division, the Yankees rebounded with an 8-5 victory Friday to regain a one-game advantage. Russell Martin hit a three-run homer in the fourth and Steve Pearce added a two-run shot later in the inning to back Phil Hughes' strong start.
Alex Rodriguez also went deep for the Yankees (78-60), who had homered just three times in losing four of their previous five. The win was New York's fourth in 12 road games overall, but its fifth in seven games this year at Baltimore.
''It was huge,'' Rodriguez said of the win. ''Every game from now on is huge, especially when you get to September. One of the challenges I have for the offense is that we should be able to score six runs every night. If we're disciplined and put up great at-bats, six runs is a good number."
There's no pitcher New York would rather have on the mound than Sabathia (13-4, 3.42 ERA), but even the six-time All-Star has discovered these Orioles aren't the same team that's endured 14 straight losing seasons.
The veteran went 16-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his first 22 starts versus Baltimore but hasn't been nearly as sharp this season, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in a pair of six-inning outings at Camden Yards.
Sabathia is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in three starts since coming off the disabled list. He didn't receive a decision in a 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday, yielding three runs and eight hits in seven innings.
Adam Jones is 13 for 38 (.342) with three homers against the left-hander while Robert Andino is 8 for 20 (.333) with one home run.
Sabathia should get some added help with the expected return of first baseman Mark Teixeira, who has missed nearly two weeks with a strained left calf.
"I just want to be smart," he said. "I'm ready to go. The team is ready for me to be back.''
Although Baltimore (77-61) lost for the fourth time in 14 games, it continued to pile up home runs against the Yankees. Jones hit his third in as many games, Andino homered in his second straight contest and Manny Machado also connected. The Orioles have 27 homers against the Yankees in 2012, their highest total versus New York in any season.
Matt Wieters went 0 for 4 after hitting safely in all 15 games this year against the Yankees. He's batting .377 with four homers and eight RBIs in the season series.
Joe Saunders (1-1, 4.63) hopes his third start more resembles his second appearance with the Orioles rather than his first. The left-hander retired the first 17 Blue Jays and allowed three hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-0 victory Monday.
That was in stark contrast to his Orioles debut Aug. 29, when he was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the White Sox.
Saunders is 2-2 with a 5.77 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees, the last two coming in the 2009 ALCS with the Los Angeles Angels.
Left-handed hitting Raul Ibanez is 8 for 23 with two homers against Saunders, and Rodriguez is 7 for 14 with a pair of home runs.