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Orioles put ball in Gausman's hands

Joy R. Absalon/USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles, who trail the first-place New York Yankees by five games in the American League East, will host the Yankees on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).

Here are some of the key statistical storylines for Wednesday’s game.

Gausman in position to live up to billing

Kevin Gausman, the Orioles’ scheduled starter, had the best ERA of any pitcher in Baltimore’s rotation in the first half of the 2014 season. But since last year’s All-Star break, he has been optioned to Triple-A five times.

In fact, since Gausman made his major league debut May 23, 2013, he has changed levels (or teams) within the Orioles’ organization 22 times. In that span, he has made 28 starts for the Orioles and 25 starts among four minor league teams.

Gausman, a first-round pick out of LSU in 2012, has been one of Baltimore’s best starters the past two seasons, but the Orioles have limited him to three starts this season (he has also appeared in eight games in relief).

In March, Keith Law labeled Gausman, whose fastball tops out at 100 mph, one of his nine “breakout player picks” for 2015.

The two major obstacles standing in the way of more major league innings for Gausman have been his abundance of minor league options and one too many starters for the Orioles’ five-man rotation.

Bud Norris was demoted to the bullpen July 4, however, as manager Buck Showalter told reporters, “We are trying to run our best five starters out there, and right now we think Kevin is one of them.”

Gausman, 24, has pitched 49⅓ innings between the majors and the minors this season.

He is coming off his worst outing of the season, giving up seven earned runs in 3⅔ innings in an 8-3 loss to the Twins on July 7.

Spotty starting pitching not holding Yankees back

The Yankees’ starting rotation is ranked in the bottom half of the AL in ERA (4.21, ninth), opponent batting average (.274, 14th) and opponent OPS (.744, ninth).

Their bullpen, on the other hand, ranks third in the AL in opponent batting average and opponent OPS and fifth in ERA.

Ivan Nova, Wednesday’s scheduled starter, has made four starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.

In his past two outings, he has allowed a combined seven earned runs in 11⅔ innings (5.40 ERA).

Shift data

The teams in Wednesday’s game include three of the most shifted players in the majors. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is the second-most-shifted player (301 plate appearances); Yankees catcher Brian McCann is ninth (221); and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is 14th (191).

Yankees infielder Stephen Drew has the second-worst batting average in baseball against the shift at .118. Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion has the worst average against the shift, .117.

The Yankees rank third in the frequency of deploying a shift. The Rays (889 shifts on balls in play) and the Astros (820) are by far the leaders. The Yankees have shifted on 582 balls in play. The Orioles rank seventh with 511 shifts on balls in play.

Major league teams shifted on more than 13,000 balls in play last season and are on pace for more than 18,000 this season. Teams are shifting on 14 percent of total balls in play this year.