Opposite dugout: Tanaka, Yankees welcome Birds to New York with first place within reach

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Joe Girardi, seventh year Record: 38-33 Last 10 games: 7-3 Who to watch: 1B Mark Teixeira (.250/.367/.460, 11 HR, 33 RBIs); CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.279/.346/.396, 21 XBH, 31 RBIs, 20 SB); C Brian McCann (.223/.288/.367, 8 HR, 33 RBIs); RHP Masahiro Tanaka (11-1, 1.99 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) Season series vs. O's: 1-2, 13 runs scored, 21 runs allowed Pitching probables June 20: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 7 p.m., MASN HD June 21: Vidal Nuno vs. Bud Norris, 1 p.m., MASN HD June 22: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Chris Tillman, 2 p.m., MASN HD Series breakdown The Yankees have done their part to help themselves - and the Orioles - lately and now the American League East's second- and third-place clubs see each other in New York. The Yankees have won seven of nine and nine of 13, including the last three in a row over the first-place Blue Jays to tighten up the top of the division. New York opens the weekend series 1 1/2 games behind the Jays for first place while the Orioles sit in third, 2 1/2 games out of first. The Yankees have allowed more than three runs just three times in the last 10 games, averaging 3.2 against during that stretch, while their bats have come alive to score at least five runs in five of the last seven contests. The highlight of the upcoming series will be Sunday's matinee pitching matchup between right-handers Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Tillman. Tanaka leads the AL with 11 wins and a 1.99 ERA as well as ranking fourth with a 0.95 WHIP. Tanaka has stood out on a Yankees pitching staff that has been nothing spectacular thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. New York ranks seventh in the AL with a 3.95 team ERA and a 3.89 rotation ERA. CC Sabathia (right knee), Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) and Michael Pineda (back) have been limited to a combined 16 starts and are all on the disabled list. The other two starters in the series have had difficulty this season, as right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA and left-hander Vidal Nuno is 1-3 with a 5.90 ERA. The bullpen has been a sore spot, ranking 10th with a 4.07 ERA and an AL-worst 11 blown saves. The offense has also been an issue for the Yankees. Despite the offseason signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, and catcher Brian McCann, New York has seen its traditional powerhouse lineup struggle to produce for the second straight season. The Yankees are 11th in the AL with 291 runs and ninth with both a .255 average and 57 homers. First baseman Mark Teixeira leads the team with an .827 OPS, 11 homers and 33 RBIs. McCann has chipped in eight homers and 33 RBIs. Ellsbury has also been solid with 21 extra-base hits 31 RBIs and 20 steals. Left fielder Brett Gardner and shortstop Derek Jeter have hit especially well lately. Gardner is hitting .366 over his last 10 games. Jeter is batting .405 over his last nine games to help pull himself out of a rough start to his final campaign. But the Yankees are playing better all-around of late, putting much on the line for both themselves and the Orioles with first place in the AL East back in striking distance.

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