O’s game blog: Kevin Gausman faces the Yankees in finale before All-Star break

Kevin Gausman (3-2, 3.51 ERA) takes the mound tonight for his seventh start of the year as the Orioles play their final game before the All-Star break.

Last year, the Orioles were 53-43 at the break and with a win tonight they would enter this year’s break at 10 games above .500 at 52-42. But they were in third place, 4 1/2 games out last season and began today leading the American League East by three games.

The Orioles are 9-3 since June 30 and will head into the break in sole possession of first for the first time since 1997, when they were 55-30 with a seven-game AL East lead.

Gausman has given up one earned run or less in four of his last five starts. For all the talk about how the back and forth between the minors and majors has messed him up, his ERA is 2.45 over his past five starts.

In 32 games since June 9, the O’s rotation has posted a 3.22 ERA, chopping a half-run off the starters’ ERA and lowering it from 4.61 to 4.11 for the season

Right-hander Chase Whitley (4-2, 4.94 ERA) gets the ball for New York. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief on Wednesday. But over his past three starts, he has pitched to a 14.80 ERA, giving up a staggering 27 hits over 10 1/3 innings. Wow, that is real bad.

Maybe that is good news for an O’s offense that has slowed again in recent days. The Orioles have scored just three runs on 10 hits in this series and they’ve scored only nine runs while batting .185 over their last four games.

Nelson Cruz is 1-for-15 the last four games after a three-game stretch where he went 11-for-16. Chris Davis is 3-for-28 over his last seven games and J.J. Hardy is 1-for-14 the past four games.

A win tonight would give the Orioles six wins in eight games and 15 in 22 games heading into the break.

Do the O’s get the win tonight on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball”?

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