Opposite dugout: Yankees get four games in three days to press pennant chase

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Aaron Boone (1st season)

Record: 58-29

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: DH Giancarlo Stanton (21 HR, 51 RBIs), SS Didi Gregorius (10 SB), 3B Miguel Andújar (25 doubles), RF Aaron Judge (.280 with 25 HR, 58 RBIs), RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 1.087 WHIP), LHP Aroldis Chapman (24 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 3-3

Pitching probables:

July 9 (Game 1): RHP Luis Cessa (0-1) vs. RHP Jimmy Yacabonis (0-0), 4:05 p.m., MASN
July 9 (Game 2): LHP CC Sabathia (6-3) vs. RHP Yefry Ramirez (0-2), 7:35 p.m. (approximate), MASN
July 10: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-2) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (2-9), 7:05 p.m., MASN
July 11: RHP Sonny Gray (5-7) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (6-8), 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

The Yankees come to Camden Yards locked in what will probably be a season-long fight with the Red Sox to determine which of them will have to get past the wild card game to stay alive in the postseason. The Yanks will get a chance to pick up some extra ground here as they start this series with a doubleheader that includes a makeup of an early-June rainout. The Bronx Bombers’ bats continue to produce runs. Injuries and a few spotty performances from some of their starting pitchers have generated concern, but the club has never been a wallflower at the deal-making dance, and the non-waiver trade deadline is coming up fast. Don’t be surprised to see a new face or two on the pitching staff before this series concludes.

The Yankees’ youngsters continue to do a lot of damage. Third baseman Miguel Andújar, 23, isn’t hitting at quite the clip he was when he was in Baltimore last, but he is slugging .498 and has hits in seven of his last nine games. Fans at Oriole Park will probably have many opportunities for years to come to see young star Gleyber Torres in action, but not this time around. The Yankees’ dazzling 21-year-old second baseman sustained a hip strain on July 4 that is expected to keep him on the disabled list for the rest of the month. Veteran Neil Walker is filling in, but in the limited action he’s seen to this point, he hasn’t been terribly productive. The Yanks are also missing power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez, who is on the DL with a groin strain. The Bombers still have plenty of firepower, though. Topping the ordnance inventory is 2017 Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge. Slashing .280/.399/.572, Judge leads his team home runs and RBIs, and is in the top five in the majors in homers and walks. With the 6-foot-8 Judge presiding, it’s easy to overlook another Aaron in the Yanks’ dugout, center fielder Aaron Hicks. Skipper Aaron Boone sure hasn’t, though. Switch-hitter Hicks (.259/.359/.523) gives Boone some flexibility in a lineup that - given the Yankees’ long history of left-handed power - is surprisingly long on right-handed bats. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton trails only Judge for the team lead in RBIs and home runs. And Judge has no doubt gotten more pitches to hit than he would have seen had Stanton not signed with the Yanks in the offseason. For a power-hitting team, the Yankees run with surprising frequency. Most likely to swipe a bag are Hicks, shortstop Didi Gregorius and ageless left fielder Brett Gardner.

The doubleheader and other factors are forcing both managers in this series to do a little patchwork on their respective rotations. Boone will go to righty Luis Cessa for the front end of today’s twinbill. Cessa was on the shuttle to and from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the first weeks of the season, making three appearances with the big club - none longer than two innings - before going to the disabled list with an oblique strain. Since being reactivated, Cessa has been in two games, one in relief and most recently as a starter. In that lone start, on June 27, Cessa went just three innings and gave up three runs on five hits to the Phillies. Left-hander CC Sabathia will work the second game of today’s doubleheader. The veteran southpaw’s 3.02 ERA puts him in the American League’s top 10 (along with league-leading teammate Luis Severino, who pitched Saturday and will sit out this series). Sabathia has gotten a decision in each of his last six starts, going 4-2 and winning his last two. The Yankees are expected to activate right-hander Masahiro Tanaka from the disabled list in time for him to start Tuesday’s contest. It will be his first appearance since he strained both hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague tilt with the Mets at Citi Field on June 8 (reigniting the debate over the designated hitter and its prohibition in National League parks). In his start prior to that one, Tanaka beat the Orioles at Camden Yards on June 2, but he gave up four runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. Righty Sonny Gray, who takes the hill for Wednesday’s finale, has lost his last three starts, and took a real beating in each of his last two. At home on June 30, the Red Sox scored six runs on seven hits before Boone yanked him with just one out in the third inning. In Toronto last Friday, he surrendered five runs on six hits, making it through just two innings. After the game, Boone dismissed the idea of skipping Gray’s next turn, and so the Orioles will get the chance to extend his misery.

The Yankees bullpen has had better luck in avoiding injuries. Chad Green (1.91 ERA) continues to improve and impress, most often in the seventh, and owns 11 holds. Setup man Dellin Betances has been steadily shrinking his ERA (now 2.56) since June 1 - at the front end of a series against the Orioles the last time the Yankees visited Camden Yards - and has allowed just four hits in his last 22 appearances, spanning 22 2/3 innings. Closer Aroldis Chapman (1.42 ERA) is still lighting up radar guns and has collected 24 saves, tied for fourth in the big leagues. He has blown only one save opportunity so far this season. Chapman has been dealing with tendinitis in his left knee since May, and felt a twinge during an outing against the Blue Jays on Saturday. But the signals the Yankees are sending out would indicate Chapman remains available. Stay tuned.

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