The American League wild card race is heating up and the Baltimore Orioles are right in the mix.
The New York Yankees are not far off either and will try to move closer to one of two wild card spots Tuesday in the second portion of a four-game series at Camden Yards. Baltimore took the opener of this series, 4-2, on Monday and used a strong outing from Chris Tillman. Tillman held the Yankees to two runs and four hits in seven innings, striking out nine batters and walking none.
Tillman aided the Orioles in their fourth win in five tries and the club is tied with Cleveland at 1 1/2 games behind in the wild card race.
"It's big, this time of year it's real big," said Tillman on the importance of these games down the stretch. "Every game I pitch is big. I only get to go out there every fifth day, so for me they're all big."
Jim Johnson picked up his 43rd save in the ninth and Nick Markakis led the Orioles offensively with three hits, an RBI and a run scored.
Things got a bit heated between Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi after the first inning, when the Orioles were accused of sign stealing. Girardi complained to Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson and Showalter took offense, shouting at New York's manager near home plate while being restrained by the umpires.
"The one thing that I've done, the whole time that I'm here, and everywhere I've been, is I'm going to protect our players at all lengths," Girardi said. "That's what I'm going to do, and there was something that I saw, and I'm just going to leave it at that."
Much to the chagrin of Girardi, his club lost for the fourth time in five tries and now sits three games off the pace for a wild card spot.
CC Sabathia's success against Baltimore didn't come through, as he allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"We didn't score runs. If we had been scoring runs like we've been the last week he gets a win tonight," Girardi said.
The Yankees, who got home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Lyle Overbay, averaged seven runs per game over a seven-game span entering this series. They opened a 10-game road trip Monday and will also visit Boston and Toronto.
Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees Tuesday and he is 8-4 with a 3.02 earned run average in 19 games (16 starts). Nova has won his last four decisions and has faced the Orioles 11 times (10 starts) in his career, going 5-2 with a 4.33 ERA.
The right-handed Nova recently tossed a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 win against Baltimore on Aug. 31.
Countering for the Orioles in the second matchup with New York will be Miguel Gonzalez, who is 9-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 26 games (24 starts). Gonzalez was 0-4 in his previous eight appearances until tossing seven innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
Gonzalez faced the Yankees on Aug. 30 in an 8-5 setback and was reached for seven runs across four innings. The righty is 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA in six career starts against the Yanks.
The Orioles are 9-7 against the Yankees this season.