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BAL@NYY: Kuroda hurls seven innings of one-run ball

The Yankees are enjoying a lengthy stay atop of the American League East standings, with Friday marking the 80th consecutive day that New York has commanded first place.

It's the longest such streak for the Bronx Bombers since 2004, but the streaking Orioles are hoping a successful weekend series in New York will put them ahead of the Yankees for the first time since early June.

The Orioles, winners in five of their past six, travel to Yankee Stadium on Friday to begin a three-game series with the Yankees. Following Baltimore's victory over the White Sox on Thursday, the Yanks have a three-game lead over the O's.

"It's baseball. You look forward to the series," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "You have a chance to put more space between you and them. It's baseball."

Yankees workhorse Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball for Friday's opener, entering having worked at least eight innings in each of his last three starts. The Yanks have won nine of his last 12 outings, during which he's posted a 2.39 ERA. His latest effort was a tough-luck 3-1 loss to the Indians, in which he allowed all three runs in the first.

"You always want to reward a pitcher for pitching well, and other than the first inning, Hiro was amazing -- the way he's really been all year," said first baseman Mark Teixeira, who will miss the weekend series with a left calf strain.

A Sunday rainout, as well as the addition of veteran Joe Saunders, has the crowded Orioles rotation in flux. However, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez is tentatively slated to oppose Kuroda on Friday.

Gonzalez has pitched well as a starter, going 5-3 with a 3.95 ERA. He beat the Yankees on July 31, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings, but hasn't pitched since Aug. 20.

The O's have pushed back Gonzalez, 28, and Wei-Yin Chen to give them added rest. Manager Buck Showalter said earlier this week he thinks the extra days between starts will serve Gonzalez well.

"I think the rest has done him some good," Showalter said. "We'll see. There's some thought about just get him in there. You've all seen late in the game we've had him get up and throw some."

Orioles: Wolf likely to be activated
Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf played long toss before Thursday's game and likely will be activated prior to Friday's series opener, giving Baltimore another lefty against the Yankees.

After Thursday's game, left-hander Zach Britton, who struck out a career-high 10 in the 5-3 victory over the White Sox, was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. The O's will make the corresponding move on Friday, which is expected to be Wolf.

"We are going to take one step at a time and get him here," Showalter said. "I know there was some competition for his services. And he's coveted, and right now he finds us a place that he would be interested in. And I don't have to remind anybody that that hasn't always been the case."

Yankees: Swisher raking in two-hole
Outfielder/infielder Nick Swisher has thrived since being placed in the second spot in the Yanks' lineup. He's hitting .329 with six home runs, 18 runs scored and 21 RBIs in his last 21 games since moving to the two-hole.

• Second baseman Robinson Cano is hitting .385 with seven extra-base hits in his last seven games. Cano, who has 27 homers, is two shy of his career high, which he set last season.

• Kuroda's lone career start against Baltimore came on April 30, when he earned the win with seven innings of one-run ball.

Worth noting
• The Yankees are 20 games above .500, three shy of their season high, when they were 72-49.

• New York has hit a Major League-high 199 homers this season.

• Mark Reynolds is hitting .174 (4-for-23) with 10 strikeouts in his career against Kuroda, while Nate McLouth is a .167 (2-for-12) career hitter against the righty.

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