Last season, when the idea of playing a 60-game season with only divisional play would have been considered absurd, the New York Yankees became quite familiar with doubleheaders en route to an AL East title.
This year, getting in 60 games in a little over two months is a challenge, often resulting in doubleheaders. The Yankees will play their seventh doubleheader of the abridged season Friday when they host the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a four-game series.
The Yankees (22-21) will match their doubleheader total from last season and this is only the second due to a rainout. Due to games being shifted around because of coronavirus concerns, the Yankees have had such arrangements such as two doubleheaders in a three-day span against the New York Mets two weekends ago, a doubleheader in Philadelphia where they were the home team and a doubleheader last Friday in Baltimore.
When the Yankees take the field for the opener, they are hoping to start reversing a 6-15 slide that has dropped them from the AL East lead to holding a precarious hold on eighth place and the second wild-card spot in an expanded playoff field.
New York ended a five-game losing streak with a 7-2 win Wednesday in Buffalo against Toronto when DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres homered.
"We've gotten beaten up here for a couple of weeks, especially this last week, and have lost some tough games," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "To finally get back in the win column, I think gives guys a chance to exhale as we head home."
The Orioles (20-22) went a combined 101-223 in the previous two seasons and are hope to benefit from the expanded playoff field by entering the series 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
"I think the mood in the clubhouse is no different than it was a month ago," Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. "We know what we're up against here playing a really good club. It's going to be a dogfight this weekend and we know that and our guys are up for it."
Baltimore took three of four last weekend from the Yankees and is 6-3 in its last nine games. The Orioles saw a four-game winning streak stopped with Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the New York Mets but continue to get productive showings from rookie Ryan Mountcastle, D.J. Stewart and Rio Ruiz.
Mountcastle is hitting .383 after getting four hits Wednesday and has driven in a run in five straight games. Stewart hit three homers off the Yankees and has homered in a career-high four straight games and Ruiz is batting .353 (12-for-34) during a 10-game hitting streak.
Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.63 ERA), who has never lost four straight starts, starts the opener for the Yankees and hopes to prevent home runs. He is 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA in his last three starts and has lost three straight starts for the first time since July 30-Aug. 10, 2018.
Cole has allowed six homers during his skid and his 13 homers allowed are tied with Detroit's Matthew Boyd for the most in the majors. He allowed a homer to DJ Stewart in Saturday's 6-1 loss when he allowed five runs (one earned) on four hits in five innings.
Cole is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four career starts against Baltimore and will be followed by Masahiro Tanaka (1-2, 3.38), who allowed four runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings in Sunday's loss at Baltimore.
Tanaka is 5-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 16 career starts against Baltimore
The Orioles will go with Keegan Akin (0-0, 2.08) and Alex Cobb (1-3, 4.33) though they did not announce the order.
Akin opposed Cole on Saturday and pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings and is holding hitters to a .174 average (8-for-46) in his first four outings.
Cobb will return from an undisclosed injury and last pitched in a 5-0 loss at Toronto Aug. 29 when he allowed five runs in four innings.
Cobb is 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 18 career appearances against the Yankees.
--Field Level Media
--Field Level Media
Yankees, Orioles set for twin bill