BALTIMORE — The New York Yankees are experiencing a terrible hitting slump at the worst possible time.
If they don’t break out of it right now, their flickering playoff hopes could be extinguished for good.
New York managed only four hits in a 2-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night. One night earlier, the Yankees got a pair of singles in an 8-0 defeat.
It’s only the first week of September, but New York finds itself in a must-win situation entering the series finale.
“You don’t ever want to go through this during the course of the season,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So (Sunday’s) game is probably the most important game of the year.”
New York already went through one seemingly must-win stretch leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline. After going into sell mode but continuing to compete, Girardi’s club again finds itself playing for the season with weeks still to go.
“Yeah, I think you do feel it more, just because you’re running out of time,” Girardi said. “That’s why I think (Sunday) is extremely important. We’ve got to find a way to score some runs.”
Kevin Gausman outpitched CC Sabathia for the second time in seven days and Adam Jones homered for the Orioles, who have blanked the Yankees three straight times dating to the series finale in New York on Aug. 28.
Gausman (7-10) allowed two hits and two walks over six innings to win his fourth straight start. He struck out eight and permitted only one runner past second base.
The right-hander threw seven shutout innings in New York last Sunday and is 2-1 with an 0.80 ERA in five starts against the Yankees this season.
“Just trying to mx in all my pitches and keep them off balance,” Gausman said.
Zach Britton, the third Baltimore reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 40th save in 40 opportunities.
The victory moved the third-place Orioles within two games of the top spot in the AL East.
Sabathia (8-12) gave up two runs, one earned, in six innings. All it got him was another loss against the Orioles, the third in a row since mid-July.
“I didn’t have much,” Sabathia acknowledged. “Just trying to make pitches when I had to, and I was able to do that for the most part. But it was a struggle today.”
The Yankees came to town with a season-high four straight series wins, but they will leave with their ninth consecutive series loss in Baltimore.
“It’s tough, especially when CC goes out there and pitches his butt off,” right fielder Aaron Judge said. “If we win tomorrow, we forget about today.”
Gausman struck out six of the first eight batters and experienced only one difficult inning, the fourth. New York loaded the bases with one out before Starlin Castro struck out and Brian McCann hit a fly ball to left.
A double and an error by Judge provided Baltimore with an unearned run in the bottom half, and Jones hit his 25th home run in the fifth.
The suddenly punchless New York offense had no answer. The Yankees totaled 27 runs against Baltimore over two games last weekend before Gausman stepped to the mound.
FAREWELL TO TEX
Maryland native Mark Teixeira will play his final game at Camden Yards on Sunday.
Teixeira was cheered as a visiting player in Baltimore until he signed as a free agent with New York in 2009. From that point, the hometown kid heard only boos.
“When you play a long time, it really doesn’t bother you at all,” Teixeira said.
Besides, it’s not like he spurned the Orioles in 2009. “They didn’t have any intention of signing me. They made an offer just to say they made an offer,” he said.
Yankees: RHP Chad Green (2-4, 4.73) has a sprained elbow and is likely done for the season. Green will see a doctor in New York on Monday.
Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (right shoulder) will have a bullpen session Sunday after throwing three times from flat ground during the week. Tillman (15-5, 3.76) last pitched on Aug. 20.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (6-11, 5.12) starts the series finale Sunday. He’s winless in his last four starts.
Orioles: LHP Wade Miley (8-11, 5.43) returns to the mound coming off his longest start (seven innings, three earned runs) since joining Baltimore at the trade deadline.