The Yankees took the series opener in what could be a potential postseason matchup to maintain their one-game lead in the American League East over the Orioles. Oakland, meanwhile, still holds a 3 1/2-game lead for the second Wild Card spot over the Angels.
Despite winning seven straight and eight of their last nine, the Yankees haven't created much of a gap between themselves and Baltimore. After all, the Orioles are just as hot of late, winning five straight games.
"I can't really think of one game, but you look at the second half that they've had; it's been very, very good," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi about when he realized the Orioles were a legit contender. "They played everyone tough. They had some tough road trips, they've come through those. I think when you get to the month of August, the middle of August, and you're still there, I think you're legitimate."
In order to hold off the O's and avoid playing in the one-game Wild Card, the Yankees' focus remains on the AL's other surprise contender, the Athletics.
Though the Yankees escaped with a 2-1, 10-inning victory Friday, the A's displayed the style that Girardi says makes them such a threat.
"They pitch very well, they hit the ball out of the ballpark," Girardi said prior to the series opener. "It's a club that can hit the ball out of the ballpark if you don't make your pitches. Their defense is pretty good, too. They do a lot of things right. I think it always starts with their pitching and it's been very good."
On Friday, starter Jarrod Parker limited the Yankees to just one run over eight innings. Left-hander Travis Blackley will try to follow suit Saturday when he counters the Yankees' Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.85 ERA). Blackley (5-3, 3.65) gets the call after manager Bob Melvin juggled the rotation to use the southpaw Saturday, citing matchups.
Blackley, who has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen this season, plans to approach the outing just like any other -- despite it being a late-September game at Yankee Stadium with playoff implications.
"If you're looking at it like that, you're going to psych yourself out," Blackley said. "I'm just thinking about keeping the team in the game as long as possible. It's good to know that they can trust you to take the reins when they need it. I'm trying to treat it like any other game, not think too much about it and go out there and get outs."
While the A's still hold one of the two Wild Card spots, their remaining schedule isn't exactly kind. Saturday's matinee marks the fifth game of their current 10-game road trip, which started earlier this week in Detroit and finishes up next week with four games in Texas. In fact, nine of the A's final 12 games are against either the Yankees or the AL West-leading Rangers.
"We're not looking at [the schedule] at all, we just try to play for the day," Melvin said. "We know we have X amount of games at home and we know we're on a road trip now, but I think based on the fact that we've played pretty well on the road the past couple of trips, when we're in Detroit we're not looking here and when we're here we're not looking at Texas.
"We're just playing day to day, and I think based on the success we have had on the road, we're not looking at it as some daunting thing we have to get through."
Athletics: Cowgill gets shot at leadoff
With Coco Crisp not in Friday night's starting lineup for the third straight game because of pinkeye, Melvin slotted Collin Cowgill into the leadoff spot for the second time in the past week.
While it's unclear if Crisp will return to the lineup Saturday, the speedy outfielder did enter Friday's game as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning. With the game tied, Crisp stole second base, but was stranded there two batters later.
Cowgill, meanwhile, went 1-for-4 and could find himself with more leadoff opportunities if Crisp is forced to miss more time.
"He does have a little bit of a history with [CC Sabathia]," Melvin said of Cowgill. "He's probably the only other true leadoff-hitter type we have."
Yankees: Girardi playing it safe with Jeter
Though Derek Jeter said the lingering bone bruise in his left ankle feels "great," Girardi plans to continue using a careful approach with his captain's playing time in the field.
Jeter served as the club's designated hitter Friday night with Eduardo Nunez starting at shortstop.
"It's something that we're going to have to manage," Girardi said of Jeter's injury. "It's not 100 percent. You could say, why don't you give him a week off? I'm not so sure it'd be 100 percent if you gave him a week off. We'll have to manage it. I'm going to pick my days and just kind of go day by day."
A's outfielder Josh Reddick is 4-for-9 with two doubles and a homer in his career against Nova.
Saturday will mark Blackley's first career appearance against the Yankees.