The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles battled for 162 games for the AL East title a season ago before going the distance in a memorable, closely contested division series.
CC Sabathia closed out the Orioles last year, and he'll be on the mound for New York when these rivals meet for the first time since the postseason Friday night in the opener of a weekend series at Yankee Stadium.New York (4-4) took the division crown by two games over Baltimore after these teams were tied with three left.The Orioles (5-4) trailed the Yankees by as many as 10 games before roaring back to create a final month of drama that was surpassed by New York's five-game division series victory over Baltimore.The clubs split the first two games at Camden Yards before the Yankees took Game 3 in 12 innings, and the Orioles responded with a 13-inning victory the next night. That set the stage for Sabathia's four-hitter as he struck out nine in New York's 3-1 victory in Game 5.Sabathia (1-1, 3.00 ERA) will try to help New York post a fourth straight victory. He was outstanding Sunday while outdueling Justin Verlander, allowing four hits over seven innings in a 7-0 victory at Detroit.The left-hander went 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA in three 2012 regular-season outings against the Orioles before going 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings in two games during the division series.J.J. Hardy had a team-high seven hits in 18 at-bats against Sabathia last year.Sabathia is 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA in six career starts at Yankee Stadium against Baltimore, including the division series clincher.The Yankees have had two unscheduled days off after the final two games of a four-game set in Cleveland were rained out. Robinson Cano went 7 for 10 with three homers and seven RBIs in the first two games.The Orioles will arrive with a red-hot Adam Jones. The center fielder delivered the tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning of Thursday's 3-2 win at Boston, and he's hit safely in every game this season while going 18 for 39 (.462) with 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored."I'm not trying to do too much," said Jones, who was 2 for 23 in last year's division series. "I'm just trying to get the big hit when the team calls upon me and my number is called."Chris Davis has cooled off, going 3 for 15 over his last five games with solo homers in the last two. He went 9 for 15 with four homers and 16 RBIs in Baltimore's 3-1 start.The Orioles won two of three in all three regular-season series at New York last year after losing 25 of 31 in the Bronx prior to 2012.Miguel Gonzalez (1-0, 2.84) will start for Baltimore after allowing two runs over 6 1/3 innings last Thursday in a 6-3 victory at Tampa Bay in his season debut.Gonzalez faced the Yankees three times as a rookie in 2012, all in the Bronx. He went 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in the regular-season outings before yielding one run over seven innings in Game 3.Cano is 0 for 9 with no walks against Gonzalez overall.