|Yankees host Orioles, turn attention toward wild card|
NEW YORK -- The American League East race is officially over and the New York Yankees can turn their focus toward more pressing matters.
Among them are securing home-field advantage in the wild-card game over the hard-charging Oakland Athletics and starting to get Giancarlo Stanton back on track.
The Yankees get a chance to do both Friday night when they host the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game series.
New York (93-59) enters the series with a 1 1/2 game lead over Oakland for home field in the wild-card game Oct. 3. The Yankees last held first place July 1 and were officially eliminated with Thursday's 11-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"This stings a little bit; we also feel like we've gotten our guys back," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said while alluding to the recent returns of Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez from the disabled list. "We feel like we're in position to hopefully take off and really start playing well and we'll have that expectation and intention going into tomorrow."
While Oakland is a major-league best 58-25 since June 15, the Yankees are 48-38 in the same period. They also are 39-32 since last holding first place July 1 and 10-12 since their last meeting with Baltimore on Aug. 26 in Camden Yards.
"We just want to play well," Boone said. "Obviously over the last whatever we've been a little bit up and down and kind of fighting to get healthy and kind of fighting to get healthy and just not as consistent as we've wanted to be."
One positive for the Yankees was Giancarlo Stanton hitting a grand slam to provide a short-term 6-4 lead Thursday. Stanton is 9-for-62 in 16 games this month and before the division was officially decided, Boone said he thought the slugger's timing was off.
"That's what he's really battling to find that good timing and when he does, and I believe he will then it gets really impactful," Boone said.
Stanton's homer was New York's 247th of the season.
Luke Voit set the new record two innings earlier, breaking the team record previously achieved in 2012. He also is the 12th Yankee to reach double figures, which is a major league record.
The Orioles (44-108) will attempt to win consecutive game for the first time since Aug. 27-29 in a three-game sweep of Toronto and are 4-14 since.
Baltimore established the team record for losses with a 6-4 defeat to Toronto Tuesday but ensured it will not match the 2003 Detroit Tigers for the most losses in the AL by getting a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
"I was thinking about it tonight how many times I walked down that long hall to get here after a great win, trying to temper the enthusiasm," manager Buck Showalter said. "I still feel elated after we win a game and then I think about all the good things that went on, especially defensively tonight."
The Orioles remain three losses shy of the franchise mark set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns but Wednesday, rookie D.J. Stewart hit his first career homer.
Despite the record, the Orioles have done decently against the Yankees, especially in New York. While they are 6-10 in the season series, the Orioles are 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.
New York's CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) looks to halt his six-game winless skid when he starts Friday. Since allowing a hit in six scoreless innings Aug. 12 against Texas, Sabathia is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA. He looks to rebound from an awful outing in last Saturday's 8-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays when he allowed five runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start since May 23, 2015.
The left-hander is 19-11 with a 4.14 ERA in 44 career starts against Baltimore. If he wins Friday, Sabathia will own at least 20 victories over four teams (also Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota).
He is winless in his last 10 starts against Baltimore since May 4, 2016, including 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts this season.
Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA) makes his 11th career start and 16th appearance with Baltimore. Ramirez is 1-6 with a 6.60 ERA as a starting pitcher after posting a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings as a reliever.
Ramirez's last start might have been his best. He returned to the rotation for the first time since Aug. 19 and in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox, he allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Ramirez started against the Yankees on July 31 in New York when he allowed six runs on six hits in five innings of a 6-3 loss. He also pitched the final three innings of a 5-3 setback in Baltimore on Aug. 26 and allowed four runs in four innings on July 9 in Baltimore.
Ramirez is a former Yankee minor leaguer and was 10-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Trenton in 2017 before joining the Orioles.