Yankees play an important three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles

CC Sabathia from his website

CC Sabathia from his website

The Yankees play the first of three games against the Baltimore Orioles tonight at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore is currently 3.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card spot and the Yankees are five games behind the Athletics.

The Yankees play 14 of their next 17 games against the Orioles and Boston Red Sox. However, it is crucial that the Yankees win at least eight of their next 10 games because they need to take advantage of the games that they have at home. The Yankees have lost four out of their last six games, but those games were at Tropicana Field and at the Rogers Centre.

In the Bronx, the Yankees have a 38-27 record behind the cheers from the Bleacher Creatures, but on the road in enemy territory their record stands at 32-36. Baltimore has a 33-32 record during road games this season, but at home at Camden Yards their record is a much better 38-29. The Yankees need to take advantage of a team that is virtually playing .500 baseball in road games. The Orioles are coming off of a series where they lost two out of three games to the Boston Red Sox.

In his career, Alfonso Soriano has hit .290 with 21 homers and 50 RBI against the Orioles. Derek Jeter, who will be starting at shortstop after making his return from the disabled list on August 26, has a .307 average in 270 games played agains the Orioles, with 24 homers and 135 RBI. Robinson Cano will be making his return to second base after being hit on his left hand by a J.A. Happ pitch during the Blue Jays series. The Yankees are lucky that his injury was not more serious.

CC Sabathia, who is tonight’s starter for the Yankees, has allowed five runs or more in four of his last seven starts. However, he has shown some signs of improvement as he allowed three runs or less in three of his last four starts. Sabathia needs to throw seven innings and allow three  runs or less tonight against the Orioles.

When David Robertson was asked about the upcoming series David Robertson said: “If we don’t fare well against Baltimore it could be the series that breaks us.” When asked about the 10 consecutive games at home Robertson said: We need to win nine of these 10 games if we want to have a chance at this thing. I hope we are up to the challenge.” Robertson, who is speaking his mind like he has not done much in the past, basically is saying exactly what the Yankees need to do.

Miguel Gonzalez, who is pitching tonight against the Yankees, has not started since August 20, where he allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings. If the Yankees win during this series, they are guaranteed to gain ground on the Tampa Bay Rays and Athletics, since they play each other. The Yankees will be rooting for Tampa because they are ahead of the second place Athletics.

The Yankees will likely need 92 wins to get into the playoffs as a wild-card, which will mean they will have to go 22-7 the rest of the season. They will need Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda to pitch well the rest of the way.

Ivan Nova, who has struggled a little recently but has been the team’s second best pitcher this season, will pitch in the game on Saturday afternoon. Phil Hughes will start in the series finale on Sunday. It is important for the Yankees offense to come back to life during this series like it did during their hot streak earlier this month.

Update: Andy Pettitte has been bumped up to start on Sunday and Phil Hughes will now get the start on Monday. This move makes sense because it allows Pettitte to pitch in a game with more significance.

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