Opposite dugout: Tanaka-less Yankees look to close in on first-place O's

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Joe Girardi, eighth year
Record: 46-45
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 1B Mark Teixeira (.241/.339/.466, 17 HR, 47 RBIs); LF Brett Gardner (.285/.359/.426, 25 XBH, 36 RBIs, 54 R, 15 SB); CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.284/.348/.403, 27 XBH, 41 RBIs, 24 SB); RHP Hiroki Kuroda (6-6, 4.20 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
Season series vs. O's: 2-4, 19 runs scored, 38 runs allowed

Pitching probables
July 11: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Miguel Gonzalez, 7 p.m., MASN HD
July 12: Shane Greene vs. Chris Tillman, 4 p.m., MASN HD
July 13: TBA vs. Kevin Gausman, 8 p.m., ESPN

Series breakdown
The hits keep coming for the Yankees, and not the kind that lead to their usually lofty runs totals.

The team announced Thursday that ace Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow, and that Tommy John surgery is a possibility if it doesn't respond to rehab.

Tanaka will be sidelined for at least six weeks, removing him from starting the series finale of the upcoming series against the Orioles at Camden Yards. That's quite a blow to an already injury-diminished rotation as its best pitcher will be out long-term. Tanaka is tied for the major league lead with 12 wins, ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.51 ERA and stands sixth in the AL with 135 strikeouts.

New York ranks ninth in the AL with a 3.99 team ERA, but without Tanaka's contributions, that figure jumps to 4.27, which would plummet to 27th in the majors.

The Yankees had already lost starters CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for the season, and Michael Pineda remains on the 60-day disabled list. So that's four-fifths of their intended rotation sitting on the shelf.

Only veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda remains standing, and he starts tonight against Miguel Gonzalez in Baltimore. Although unspectacular this year, Kuroda has been consistent, allowing more than four runs only once in 18 outings with 10 quality starts.

New rotation member Shane Greene will start the second game of the series against Chris Tillman. The 25-year-old right-hander has seen his first major league action this year with his first career start coming Monday in Cleveland. He did well, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings. Greene struck out two and walked one.

Tanaka's Sunday Night Baseball replacement hasn't been announced.

The Yankees continue to struggle offensively, ranking 11th in the AL with 369 runs, ninth with a .252 average and ninth with 78 homers.

First baseman Mark Teixeira leads the team with 17 homers, 47 RBIs and an .805 OPS, despite batting just .241. Outfielders Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have provided similar-style sparks. Gardner has a .786 OPS, 25 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs and 15 steals. Ellsbury has a .751 OPS, 27 extra-base knocks, 41 RBIs and 24 steals.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran will miss the series after being placed on the seven-day DL for concussions while catcher Brian McCann (.654 OPS) is still searching for his stroke.

But the Yankees have shown improved play lately after a lengthy slide. Since losing nine of 11 from June 21 to July 2, New York has won five of eight to get back above .500 and keep the first-place Orioles within their sights.

The Yankees are four games back and in third entering a big three-game series that could go a long way toward the Orioles putting their pinstripe-clad opponents away... or could set up an even tighter division race coming out of the All-Star break.

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