Opposite dugout: Yankees aiming for return to postseason, AL East crown still within reach

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

Record: 76-59

Last 10 games: 7-3

Who to watch: DH Alex Rodriguez (.257/.361/.491 with 28 HR, 76 RBIs), RF Carlos Beltran (.276/.338/.474 with 14 HR, 50 RBIs), 1B Mark Teixeira (.255/.357/.548 with 31 HR, 79 RBIs), C Brian McCann (.245 with 25 HR, 86 RBIs), RHP Masahiro Tanaka (11-6, 3.73 ERA), LHP Andrew Miller (31 saves, 1.80 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 8-5

Pitching probables:

Sept. 7: LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. RHP Michael Pineda, 1:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 8: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 9: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. LHP CC Sabathia, 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

Entering the last three-game series in the Bronx against the Orioles, the Yankees held a four-game lead over the Birds in the American League East. After New York's sweep, the Yanks had a 5 1/2 game lead over the Blue Jays with the O's falling seven games back. But despite going 23-18 since that last meeting, the Yankees are currently 1 1/2 games behind Toronto in the East thanks to the Jays' 21-6 August.

But October is still in sight for the Pinstripes after a two-year absence from the postseason, as they hold the first wild card spot by five games and look to track down Toronto in the season's final month. The Yankees have 20 of their remaining 27 games against AL East rivals. They are 8-5 against the Orioles, 10-5 against the Red Sox and 9-6 against the Rays. However, they are 4-8 against the Blue Jays with seven games left against them that includes a four-game series at home. So the Yankees might need to beat up on the other three East teams if they aren't able to take down Toronto head-to-head.

Even though the Yanks trail the Jays in most statistically categories as well, they are still one of the most daunting lineups in the league. They've scored the second-most runs and hit the third-most home runs. The Yankees offense is led by the power bats of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann. These three don't hit too well for average with A-Rod's .257 being the best average among them, but they can hit the ball out of the park and drive in runs. Teixeira leads the team with 31 homers while Rodriguez and McCann have hit 28 and 25 respectively. McCann leads the team with 86 RBIs, and Teixeira and Rodriguez follow with 79 and 76.

Right fielder Carlos Beltran leads New York with a .276 batting average while hitting 14 longballs with 50 RBIs. Third baseman Chase Headley leads the team with 133 hits and contributes a .274 average. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is hitting .272 with 46 RBIs, while left fielder Brett Gardner has added 13 homers and 57 RBIs.

Michael Pineda is already at a career-best 10-8 record, but has worked to a 4.07 ERA. He is 3-5 with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break after going 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in the first half. But part of his second-half struggles is due to his time on the disabled list with a forearm strain, causing him to miss most of August. This will be his fourth start against the Orioles this season, having gone 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in the first three. His last start against the O's in Baltimore was the only loss when we pitched just 4 1/3 innings while giving up nine hits, six runs (five earned), two walks and a home run to Chris Davis.

Masahiro Tanaka will start Tuesday night's game at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka is 11-6 with a 3.73 ERA on the season and 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA since the All-Star break. He won each of his last two starts but in large part due to the amount of run support the Yankees gave the right-hander. Tanaka gave up three runs in seven innings against the Braves, but the Yanks put up 15 runs for him. He then gave up four runs to the Red Sox in 6 1/3 innings, but got 13 runs from the offense for room to work. Tanaka won his only start against the Orioles this season, giving up five hits and three runs in 7 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium. The three runs came off solo home runs by Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado.

It's looking like CC Sabathia will get the ball for the series finale while searching for some encouragement coming off the disabled list in a disappointing season. The left-hander is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA on the season and coming off an inflamed right knee that had him out since August 24. Sabathia reportedly threw a 60-pitch simulated game on Friday and should make his return to face the Orioles. He hasn't won a start since July 8, going 0-1 with a 4.74 ERA in the seven starts since. Sabathia is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts against the O's this season, pitching five innings the last time he faced them while giving up eight hits, four runs and home runs to Nolan Reimold and Machado in a no-decision.

The Yankees are in line for a postseason run, but they would obviously prefer to win the division than play in the win-or-go-home wild card game, which they would host if the standings remain the same. First-place Toronto is well within reach for New York, and with the other three East teams playing sub-.500 ball, the Yankees will have plenty of opportunities to catch the Jays in September.

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