Opposite dugout: Division games could be deciding factor for Yankees in second half

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Joe Girardi (8th season)

Record: 50-41

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: LF Brett Gardner (.300/.378/.477 with 10 HR, 42 RBIs), DH Alex Rodriguez (.277/.378/.515 with 19 HR, 52 RBIs), C Brian McCann (.255 with 15 HR, 58 RBIs), 1B Mark Teixeira (.249 with 23 HR, 63 RBIs), RHP Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.50 ERA), LHP Andrew Miller (20 saves, 1.44 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 5-5

Pitching probables:

July 21: LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi, 7:05 p.m., MASN
July 22: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Ivan Nova, 7:15 p.m., MASN
July 23: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka, 1:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

The Yankees went into the All-Star break with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Rays in the American League East and a four-game lead over the Orioles. After New York and Baltimore each went 2-1 and Tampa Bay went 1-2 in their first series of the second half, the Yankees still lead the now second-place Orioles by four games. This is only the second three-game series of the second half, but in the ever-close AL East, every game matters.

The Yankees are the only team in the AL East that hasn't played 44 division games yet. They've only played 38, which means they have 38 more in their final 71 games of the season, including this series against the Orioles. New York and Baltimore currently sit with the best in-division records, going 21-17 and 24-20, respectively. The Yankees are 5-5 against the O's, 6-3 against the Red Sox and 8-5 versus the Rays, but only 2-4 against the Blue Jays. With 13 games left against Toronto, the Yankees will need to either change their fortunes against the Jays or focus on beating up on the rest of the East.

New York's offense is still the power-hitting bunch they've rode to the top of the division all year. First baseman Mark Teixeira is fourth in the AL with 23 home runs and a slugging percentage of .539, and leads the league with 63 RBIs. However, Teixeira is only batting .249. Designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has hit 19 homers and driven in 52 RBIs while batting for a line of .277/.378/.515. Catcher Brian McCann has 58 RBIs while smacking 15 home runs with only a .255 batting average.

Left fielder Brett Gardner leads the team with a .300 batting average and .378 on-base percentage while slugging .477. He has added 10 homers and 42 RBIs. Third baseman Chase Headley is batting .256 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs, while right fielder Carlos Beltran is hitting .262 after going 1-for-2 and an RBI in his first game back from the disabled list on Sunday. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has also had a stint on the DL and is batting .302, but with only two homers and 10 RBIs.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi gets the ball to start the series at Yankee Stadium with the team's best record of 9-2. Despite a ERA of 4.50, Eovaldi is a winner in four of his last five starts and six of his last seven decisions. His is 4-0 at home with a 3.72 ERA including a 4-3 win over the Orioles on May 7. Eovaldi pitched 5 2/3 inning, giving up six hits, all three runs and three walks while striking out three. That is his only decision in his two starts against the Birds this season, with the O's winning his first start on April 15 after Eovaldi only pitched five innings and Baltimore scored five runs in the sixth. He has a 4.22 ERA over those two starts against the Orioles and has given up home runs to Manny Machado, Caleb Joseph and Jimmy Paredes.

Ivan Nova will be making only his fifth start of the season in the middle game of this series. He is 1-3 with a 3.42 ERA in those four appearances with that sole victory coming against the Phillies in his first start on June 24. He is 5-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Orioles, although he is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA at home this season. The righty throws a 93 mph fastball 65 percent of the time and a 79 mph curveball 28 percent of the time while mixing in an 86 mph changeup.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will pitch the series finale against Ubaldo Jimenez. Tanaka is only 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA after starting the season 4-1 with some time on the disabled list. He is 4-2 at home, but with a 4.32 ERA. Tanaka hasn't faced the Orioles yet this season after pitching against the other three AL East teams in his first three starts, going 2-1 with the loss coming against Toronto. He is 0-1 in two starts against the Birds in his career and has given up two home runs to Jonathan Schoop.

Although being outscored 54-43 by Baltimore, the Yankees split the season series against the Orioles in the first half. Including this series, the two teams face each other nine more times in the second half. The home team has won each series so far this season, and with two of the three three-game series left between these teams in New York, that stat favors the Yankees as they look to hold off the O's. However, that final series is the last of the regular season and in Baltimore, where the Yanks are 2-4 in 2015. So even with two series in the Bronx, that series at Camden Yards on the first weekend of October could be the one that decides the winner of this division.

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