Winners of three straight and four of the last five outings, the Baltimore Orioles are preparing themselves for the possibility of a rare three-game sweep of the New York Yankees as the clubs clash in Camden Yards on Sunday night.
Baltimore, which is now just 2 1/2 games behind Boston for first place in the American League East, played the Yankees to an even 9-9 last season after bowing to the Bronx Bombers in 26 of 36 meetings in the previous two campaigns.
On Sunday, though, the O's have a chance to win their fifth straight decision versus New York.
The major league leader in home runs was back at it again on Saturday night for the Orioles as Chris Davis circled the bases twice and knocked in a total of five as he reached the 30-home run plateau with two weeks remaining before the All-Star break. Four other Baltimore batters had at least two hits in the 15-hit barrage, with Nick Markakis accounting for three singles and two runs scored.
Davis, who had just 33 home runs all of last season, now has 54 extra-base hits which means he is on pace to record 106 this year, a number that would smash the previous club record of 92 set by Brady Anderson in 1996.
"I don't think it's anything you can predict," said Davis of his productivity. "It's something you obviously work hard toward in the offseason, to try and carry it into Spring Training and then into the season. I'm not going up there to try and hit home runs. I'm just trying to put good swings on good pitches. I think that's the biggest thing. Last night I was a little too aggressive, and it worked against me. Tonight I was a little more patient, and I saw the result of that."
Ryan Flaherty, who delivered his sixth home run of 2013, plated three runs, while Chris Dickerson knocked in another two as well.
Baltimore starter Zach Britton evened his record at 2-2 as he worked his way through 5 2/3 innings, permitting one earned run on six hits and three walks.
Over on the other side David Phelps, who was bumped to Saturday in favor of CC Sabathia on Friday night, lasted a mere 2 1/3 innings as the O's peppered nine hits and scored nine times. Ivan Nova came in during the third and went the rest of the way for the Yankees, allowing two runs on six hits, while fanning four.
Nine different players had hits for New York. However, only Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano had two knocks, the former coming up with a pair of doubles in the losing effort, the fourth straight for the club as it fell to 5 1/2 games out of first in the division.
Now in his fifth major league season, all of them with Baltimore, Chris Tillman is aiming to register his 10th win of the 2013 campaign which would be a career high, with still the second half of the season to be played. The right-hander, who was 9-3 in 15 appearances last year, has won five straight appearances and six consecutive decisions overall since his last setback on May 19 versus Tampa Bay.
On Tuesday the California native went up against Cleveland and allowed three runs on four hits and as many walks, but he tempered his questionable accuracy with six strikeouts in seven innings as well.
A bit wild in his last three wins, Tillman has one more walk issued (11) than strikeout as he goes into this meeting with the Yankees trying to even his all-time record versus the club, currently at 2-3 through seven appearances.
Countering for the visitors tonight will be Hiroki Kuroda as the Japanese native tries to put an end to a three-game slide.
In each of his last five appearances Kuroda, who broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2008, has watched the Yankees land in the loss column. In fact, the last time the right-hander took the field and NY posted a victory was back on May 17 when the team defeated Toronto at home by a score of 5-0.
Kuroda's last appearance for New York was back on June 13 when he made it through eight full innings, allowing two runs on two hits and a couple of walks, while striking out three, but still the Bombers suffered a 3-2 setback at Oakland.
For his career, Kuroda is 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA in four all-time outings versus Baltimore, including an ugly showing back on May 22 when he was shelled for five runs on eight hits -- two home runs -- in a mere two innings of work.