Slumping Yankees face big series against charging Orioles

Derek Jeter watches from the dugout as the

Derek Jeter watches from the dugout as the Yankees bat in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Brian Cashman has always shrugged off injuries as part of the game. He does the same with the highs and lows of the marathon regular season. That's why the Yankees' current stretch of poor play isn't a concern yet.

Even with the Orioles, who trail the Yankees by three games in the AL East, starting a three-game series in the Bronx Friday night.

Does this series have extra importance? "Every series does, to be honest,'' Cashman said Thursday. "They're gonna come in and try to make up some ground and we're obviously going to try to defend our turf and put them back. It's 162 games, and in our world they say it's 162 seasons. That continues [Friday night]. It's good to have our off day. We haven't been playing well lately. Guys can get a chance to rest up and re-set their clock and get after it [Friday night].''

On July 18, the Yankees led the Orioles by 10 games and the Rays by 101/2. But since then, the Yankees (75-55) have gone 18-21 to the Orioles' 25-14 and the Rays' 24-15. Tampa Bay trails the Yankees by 41/2 games.

The three games against the Orioles will be followed by three games against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., and four games in Baltimore.

"I haven't focused on them [the Orioles] that much, to be honest,'' Cashman said. "I know they're winning. How they're doing it doesn't necessarily matter. We have to win our games. That's all we care about, whoever we're playing against. We haven't done a great job of that recently, but that's also a part of the emotional roller coaster that they call a season. Hopefully we'll bring our 'A' game this weekend and give Baltimore a handful. We'll see.''

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The Yankees, who have lost six of their last nine, were fortunate to split their last six games against the Indians (55-76) and Blue Jays (59-71). The Indians entered their series against the Yankees having lost eight straight and 21 of 25; the Blue Jays entered having lost seven straight and 21 of 26.

"We are not exactly making it easy on ourselves, you know?'' Nick Swisher said. "Tough series here the past three days, big series coming up this weekend and I'm expecting us to really step it up and get this thing turned around.''

Cashman said there are "a number of reasons'' for the current skid. "We haven't pitched well, hitting with runners in scoring position has been an issue, some guys are slumping,'' he said. "It varies. Depends on what game you're watching. That happens. When we were on fire, we were a championship-caliber team. When you get on a run and you get all that success, you have everything going for you. When you're struggling, like we are now, not everything is running your way. That's why the 162 balances it out.''

Cashman spoke after a news conference in Trenton, N.J., where it was announced that the Yankees are extending their player development relationship with their Double-A affiliate through 2022. "We have no interest in moving anywhere. We just want to solidify it publicly,'' he said. "They mentioned it from their perspective. They've been so accommodating. There's no reason to consider moving anywhere else. This is the best place for us to be.''

Notes & quotes: Alex Rodriguez (wrist) will play a rehab game with Class A Tampa Friday and Cashman hasn't ruled out having him back during the Rays series. David Aardsma (Tommy John surgery) will pitch Friday for Tampa . . . Though it's been floated as a possibility, Cashman said not to expect Brett Gardner (right elbow surgery) to be added to the roster as a pinch runner at any point. "If he can't help us in every aspect, that's not gonna help us,'' he said. "It's not something I'm looking at.''

With Mark Macyk

and Roderick Boone

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