The Yankees are playing a dangerous game in their quest to climb back in the hunt for a postseason spot.
Time is running out, and New York's 19-19 record since the All-Star break has done the club no good as it tries to catch the teams it trails in the standings.
On Friday night in the Bronx, the Yankees will welcome back slugging second baseman Robinson Cano, who left Tuesday's game at Toronto and missed Wednesday's loss after being struck on the left hand by a pitch. With Cano back, the Bronx Bombers will get a crack at gaining ground on one of the clubs above them in both the American League Wild Card and the AL East -- the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles sit 3 1/2 games back of the A's for the second AL Wild Card spot. Baltimore is also 1 1/2 games up on the Yankees, who will send struggling left-hander CC Sabathia to the mound for the series opener.
Sabathia allowed four runs in each of his two starts against Baltimore this year. During the season's second half, the southpaw has made it through the seventh inning just once, and he's posted a 7.30 ERA in seven starts since the Midsummer Classic.
"I feel like I can't stop the bleeding," Sabathia said after his most recent outing -- a loss to the Rays in St. Petersburg on Saturday. "If something gets going, it's hard for me to make a pitch."
Those aren't exactly encouraging words coming from the mouth of the club's Opening Day starter, but catcher Austin Romine said he thought Sabathia's first five innings on Saturday were among the best he's pitched all year. Sabathia came undone in the sixth, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk in the frame.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (8-6, 3.77 ERA) will get the start for Baltimore. Gonzalez made his first relief appearance since July 1, 2012, on Sunday, and he made another on Tuesday in Boston.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose to give Gonzalez extra time between starts because of a quirk in the schedule that led to two off-days within a week of each other. Still, Showalter wanted Gonzalez to face hitters to stay fresh, so the righty was inserted into the two ballgames and tossed a combined 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
"He's just pitched well. It's some games that he's had some command of his fastball and offspeed pitches," Showalter said. "Pitchers and players are creatures of memory. That's why the first thing I always look at before a series is how guys do in a certain ballpark. There are certain things that don't waver a whole lot. ... Miguel will be challenged tomorrow. They've got a lot of their people back and they're playing well."
New York has taken both of the series between the two clubs at Yankee Stadium this season, but Baltimore holds the edge in the overall season series, 7-5, by virtue of its dominance at Camden Yards.
Orioles: Team looking to add another bat
Baltimore is actively looking to add a hitter, with multiple waiver claims out and at least two that could help boost the club's lineup the last month of the season.
The Orioles were awarded the claim on Seattle's Michael Morse and Minnesota's Josh Willingham and are negotiating with those two clubs in hopes of working out a deal. They have until Friday at noon ET to work out a deal.
The Orioles most recently dropped their series to the Red Sox and have had poor production from the designated hitter spot all season.
Yankees: Soriano thriving in pinstripes
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano has been red hot since returning to the Yankees in a late-July trade. He has hit 10 home runs in August alone.
"It's great to me," Soriano said. "When I left here [in 2004], I wasn't sad, because it's part of the game, but I thought that I had something to prove to myself, my teammates and the fans."
Obviously, Soriano hasn't played in enough games with the Yankees to qualify, but his .561 slugging percentage is the best on the team.
• The Orioles have just 39 errors in 132 games. The 2003 Mariners hold the current single-season record for fewest errors with 65.
• In 40 career at-bats against Sabathia, Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters is hitting .175 with 11 strikeouts.
• The Yankees are .500 (43-43) in night games this season.