The New York Yankees earned a much-needed victory over the first-place Baltimore Orioles their last time out, but they'll feel the absence of their ace for the first time as they go for a series win at Camden Yards on Sunday night.
The Yankees will turn to rookie Chase Whitley as the replacement for Masahiro Tanaka, who will miss his first turn in the rotation since it was announced he would be out for an extended period due to a torn elbow ligament.
New York (47-46) received a Tanaka-worthy effort Saturday from the surprising Shane Greene, who pitched 7 1-3 innings and gave up four singles with nine strikeouts to beat Baltimore 3-0. It was the second straight strong effort from Greene, who defeated Cleveland 5-3 with six innings of two-run ball in his starting debut Monday.
Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira drove in runs as the Yankees avoided a third consecutive loss and cut the Orioles' division lead to four games. Baltimore (51-42) had won nine of 11.
If the Yankees are to take this set and complete a 7-4 road trip - their longest of the season - they'll do it behind Whitley instead of Tanaka, who went on the disabled list Wednesday and will miss at least six weeks.
Manager Joe Girardi announced after Saturday's game that his Sunday starter would be Whitley, who like Greene joined New York's patchwork rotation due to injuries. The right-hander struggled badly in his last three starts after a strong first seven, posting a 14.81 ERA, but threw two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win in a 5-4, 14-inning victory over Cleveland on Wednesday.
"Everybody's a big leaguer here; everybody can do the job," catcher Francisco Cervelli told MLB's official website. "Just because we lost big names, it doesn't mean the other guys cannot do it. We've just got to work, have a good plan and just come ready to win - every game."
A converted reliever, the workload seemed to catch up to Whitley (4-2, 4.94 ERA), who may be fresher for this start after throwing nine innings over his past three appearances. He'll face Baltimore for the first time.
"I'm excited. Any time you get the ball, you're excited to go out there and pitch," Whitley said.
He'll also be trying to help the Yankees avoid finishing their pre-All-Star break schedule with a .500 record for the first time since 2007, when they went 43-43.
Whitley will be opposed by Kevin Gausman (3-2, 3.51 ERA), who was brought up from the minors for the fifth time this season Saturday after the Orioles placed Ubaldo Jimenez on the disabled list with a right ankle sprain.
Though Gausman has been up and down from the major league club, he's generally pitched very well in his six starts, allowing one or no runs in four of them. His most recent outing came last Sunday, when he went 5 1-3 innings and gave up one run and four hits with seven strikeouts in a 7-6, 12-inning win at Boston.
With Jimenez out, Gausman will likely remain with the Orioles through the All-Star break and beyond.
"Any time you're up here for an extended amount of time, it's good," Gausman told MLB's website. "It's just another opportunity for me to go out there and pitch well and try to keep us rolling."
Gausman has faced the Yankees five times in relief, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA. New York roughed him up in the latest one, scoring three times in his one inning of work during its 7-5 road win Sept. 10.
New York's Brian McCann is 5 for 8 in this series and has batted .359 over his last nine games.