Jockeying for position in the tight American League East, the Orioles and Yankees each have plenty of opportunities over the next 10 days to improve their fortunes at the expense of the other.
The teams will meet on Saturday night in the second of a three-game series at Camden Yards, and they will clash for three more next weekend in the Bronx.
"It's important, because we have to try to move ahead of the teams that are ahead of us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "and we get Baltimore, I think, six times before the [All-Star] break, and it gives us an opportunity."
The Yankees went into Friday's series opener one game behind the second-place Orioles and 4 1/2 behind the division-leading Red Sox before losing ground to both with a 4-3 loss.
It's been a struggle recently for New York, which led the division entering play on May 26 but is 12-19 since. Still, the Yankees remain well within striking distance.
"I think you're pretty fortunate to have that happen," Girardi said. "No one has really run away with it. Boston has seemed to pick it up again, and we're going to have to pick it up if we want to remain in the race."
Girardi will turn on Saturday to right-hander David Phelps, who will be trying to build on his stellar month. In four June starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA, and he has lowered his season ERA to 4.01.
Phelps hasn't started against the Orioles this season, but he did appear in relief against them on April 13, giving up one hit and walking none while striking out six over four scoreless innings.
Baltimore will counter with left-hander Zach Britton, who is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA in three big league starts this season. Britton compiled a 3.28 ERA over 11 outings at Triple-A Norfolk.
Britton has started twice since his latest promotion but wasn't able to go deep in either game, striking out six and walking six over 10 1/3 innings. On Monday he held the Indians scoreless through five but surrendered three runs without recording an out in the sixth.
"[He] just elevated some balls, lost his command," manager Buck Showalter said. "He had pretty good movement, late life. He got out of some potential sticky situations, but I thought he pitched well for five innings. But ... different stuff showed up there in the sixth."
Although this is hardly the same Yankees offense as in years past, Britton has struggled mightily in his dealings with them, with a 7.82 ERA over six starts.
Yankees: Bats staying quiet
The Bronx Bombers are in an unfamiliar position, near the bottom of the Major League rankings in several offensive categories. Entering Friday they ranked 26th in batting average, 24th in OPS, 22nd in runs and 29th in doubles. Last season they had the second-highest scoring offense and ranked first in OPS.
"We've got to figure it out," Girardi said. "For me to spend all my time worrying about that is not going to do me any good. The bottom line is that I think these guys are capable of getting it done, and we've just got to do it."
During their current 12-19 stretch, the injury-ravaged Yankees are averaging 3.2 runs per game, so Girardi isn't too surprised to find his team leaning on its pitching.
"On a daily basis, I don't really think a lot about it. I think about how you're going to win that game today," he said. "As we left Spring Training, we said that the strength of our club was going to be our pitching, and we were probably going to have to win a lot of tight games. We're going to have to continue to do that if we're going to have success."
Orioles: Davis has dominant history with Yanks
First baseman Chris Davis went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Friday. It was a rare quiet game for him, especially against the Yankees.
In his first six games against New York this season, Davis went 9-for-22 with a double and two home runs.
"You better not make mistakes, or he's going to hit it a long way," Girardi said. "And he can hit some pitches that are down in the zone. You talk about pitching down, but he's a pretty good low-ball hitter."
• Second baseman Brian Roberts left his rehab game at Triple-A Norfolk early on Friday, but not because of a setback. He will be joining the Orioles on Saturday and be activated to start on Sunday.
• With Friday's win, the Orioles took a 4-3 lead in the season series.
• Phelps' last start at Camden Yards came on Sept. 6, 2012, when he gave up five runs on six hits in four innings.