Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The walking wounded

            The injuries and a string of poor play are starting to really catch up to the Yankees as the Toronto Blue Jays came into Yankee Stadium to serve as a punching bag, but instead made the Yankees look flat and depleted. The Blue Jays are jockeying for position in the last position in the AL East cellar with the Boston Red Sox and are a team the Yankees should been using to pad up their lead in the division. By the end the Yankees would be left only 3.5 games up with the Baltimore Orioles coming in to possibly cut the lead down to a tiny half-game.

              David Phelps made the start with Nova on the DL and was helped out with a Robinson Cano homer to kick off the scoring in the bottom of the 1st. Adam Lind for Toronto tied it in the 2nd with a solo homer of his own, but Cano would have none of that and hit his second solo shot in the 4th to put the Yankees back up 2-1. The Bombers weren't done in the inning, a Russell Martin double that hit off of the leg of Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez that scored two more for a 4-1 Yankees lead. Phelps wasn't able to keep Toronto off the board and gave back two of the runs in their next chance in the 5th from a Yorvit Torreabla 2-run homer. The see-saw affair kept going on when Nick Swisher then hit a 2-run homer of his own in the bottom of the inning. Phelps allowed another run in the 7th, but Cody Eppley came in to get the Yanks out of the inning without any further damage. The young Yankee right-hander was decent enough in his 6.1 innings and mostly suffered from two long balls. It all came down to the bottom of the 9th with Rafael Soriano on the mound with two outs and a runner on first. Soriano was 0-2 on Rajai Davis and one strike away from closing it out. The next pitch caught too much of the plate and Davis was able to hit a single. Then a flat slider to the next hitter, Colby Rasmus, was crushed deep to right for a 3-run Blue Jay homerun that gave the visiting team a heartbreaking 7-6 lead. The remaining Yankee Stadium crowd unfairly showered Soriano with boos, despite the fact he is 33 out of 36 in save opportunities and its not as if Mariano Rivera never blew a save.

             The crowd would have another thrill before the night was through. In the bottom of the 9th Toronto brought on their closer, Casey Janssen, to do what Soriano couldn't do. His first batter was Derek Jeter, and he still had the homerun bug when he took Janssen deep to tie the game 7-7. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they couldn't get another run for a walk-off, so it went to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, the Blue Jays lead off the inning with a single off of new pitcher Derek Lowe. Mike McCoy came in to pinch run and played a little cat-n-mouse with Lowe trying to get a good lead off of first base. Mark Teixeira left the game earlier in the night due to a strained calf that will have him sidelined till the rest of the homestand at a minimum. With Chavez playing the bag and the combination of a poor toss over by Lowe, the ball ended up in right field and McCoy hustled over to third. The Blue Jays would eventually get the run in and take the 8-7 lead. Long-time reliever Darren Oliver came out for another inning and finished the long night off. It was perhaps the worst loss of the season.

             With Teixeira sidelined for who knows how long, the Yankees made a move to bring up Steve Pearce, who they acquired recently from the bottom-feeding Houston Astros for a sack of potatoes. On the mound for the Yankees was Phil Hughes, who took the hard luck 2-1 loss last week to the Chicago White Sox. This time Hughes would be on the other side of that 2-1 score as the Bombers squeaked by Ricky Romero and the Blue Jays. An RBI single by Nick Swisher in the 3rd and a sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson to score newcomer Pearce in the 4th gave the Yankees all their runs. Hughes' only blemish was an opposite field homerun he gave up to Adeiny Hechavarria in the top of the 5th. In the 6th Hughes faced serious danger with two runners on and nobody out, but a fly out coupled with a line out double play in which Cano made a strong throw to third base after catching the ball, got the Yankees out of the jam. New father David Robertson breezed through the 8th and Soriano came on in the 9th to mend himself after the previous night's disaster and pick up his 34th save. Phil Hughes went 7 innings for his team-tying 13th win and struck out 5 while doing it.

             The Yankees had to feel the series was in their hands with C.C. Sabathia on the mound making his second start off the DL against Jays' lefty J.A. Happ. Things were going in the right direction early when the Yankees were able to grab a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st from an Andruw Jones RBI single and Curtis Granderson fielder's choice ground out. Sabathia encountered a bizarre inning in the 3rd when he cleanly allowed a single to Jeff Mathis Then on the next play Jayson Nix, playing third, booted a ground ball from Adeiny Hechavarria and both runners were safe. Eventually the bases would be loaded with nobody out and the Blue Jays were set up for a big inning, but Sabathia was able to induce a double play which Nix fielded cleanly; stepped on third for one and tossed to home to nail Mathis trying to score. Sabathia looked to be one out away from escaping, but then two singled and a double which would plate three runs for Toronto and give them a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Blue Jays would give the Yanks a hand in the scoring of the next two runs. With runners on second and third, Curtis Granderson lined a ball to left field which should've been a simple fly out, but Rajai Davis misjudged it and let it sail over his head. Both Yankee runners came in the score and give the Yankees back a lead at 4-3.

            The Yankees could've put the Jays away in the 4th when they had a golden opportunity that was bases loaded and only one out. Happ buckled down and boldly struck out Swisher and Cano to escape surrendering any runs. Not adding any extra runs in that spot would turn out to be fatal. In the 6th, Adam Lind singled to right and the ball seemed to have been caught by the slowing Andruw Jones, but the umpire said the ball was trapped. That turned out to be crucial because the next hitter Yunel Escobar crushed a 2-run homer deep to left to put Toronto on top 5-4. The Yankees worked Happ's pitch-count up and had him gone after the 5th. New Toronto pitcher, Steve Delabar, came on in the bottom of the 6th and Jayson Nix started what looked like a promising inning with a leadoff double. With the need to play small-ball to get the runner in without a hit, the Yankees failed miserably; Ichiro failed at a bunt attempt and would eventually strike out, Chavez grounded out to move the runner to third, but Jeter completed the failure by striking out to end the threat. The Yanks had more small-ball failure in the bottom of the 8th, down by two runs this time at 6-4, the Yankees got one back from an RBI double by Russell Martin, a lucky double that hit the third base bag and allowed Raul Ibanez to score from second. Then the next three hitters failed as they did in the 6th; Ichiro flied out to shallow center, Chavez struck out, and Jeter flied out to right.

            With David Robertson unavailable from pitching three games in a row, Joe Girardi went to a string of pitchers in the top of the 9th and found himself with the bases loaded with Blue Jays and the unreliable Joba Chamberlain out of the pen still trying to get his act (and weight) together since returning from Tommy John surgery. With one out, Joba wasn't able to get a double-play, instead Yunel Escobar flied to right and the slow/non-chalant Andruw Jones yet again couldn't field the ball cleanly and it resulted in two runs, putting the Yankees behind 8-5. Mercifully, the Yanks would only lose by those three runs and were sloppy in the field with three charged-errors, although they should've received two more in the pitiful afternoon.

             The strain of A-Rod's missing bat in the line-up, Teixeira's new calf injury and his lingering wrist issue that will have him gone for a few games, Granderson's dive-bomb slump, and overall too many hitters with low batting averages, the need to effectively execute small-ball for runs is going to make the difference between being 2012 AL East champs and battling five other teams for the final Wild Card spot.....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

C-Seeing the Rebound

             The Cleveland Indians have been totally abysmal and for a Yankee team that just got swept in Chicago and in which nobody other than Jeter is hitting, the Tribe were the right opponent at the right time. CC Sabathia was making the start after being complete with his second DL stint in many weeks and the rest certainly paid dividents as he was able to get the team back on the right track.

             That man again, Derek Jeter, started the game with a double and would come around to score soon after on a Nick Swisher RBI double to follow. Opposing starter Corey Kluber must have been unhappy with the Jeter double and the overall hot streak the Captain has been on, since the next at-bat he buzzed Jeter in the head and knocked off the helmet. Luckily Jeter wasn't hurt, but that forced CC Sabathia to send a little message of his own since he's never one to back down from a bean-ball conversation. Sabathia put his perfect start to the game in his back pocket and threw behind Indians shortstop (Jeter's position) Asdrubal Cabrera in the bottom of the 4th. Sabathia made the mistake of missing because on the next pitch Cabrera got the last laugh by hitting a solo homer to center to tie the game 1-1. After the drama Sabathia got back to pitching and put zeros up for the rest of his night. Nick Swisher broke the tie in the 7th with a much needed 2-run homer off of Cody Allen. Rafael Soriano entered the 9th with the 3-1 lead and made it interesting by loading the bases with two outs, but was able to induce a ground ball to end the end the game and snap the Yanks' 3-game losing streak. It was Soriano's 32nd save, Sabathia's 13th win, but most important Sabathia was able to give a strong effort with 7.1 innings and 9 strikeouts, plus his fastball reached 95mph on several occasions which wasn't happening consistently during June, July, and August.

             In Sabathia's absence and during his struggles, Hiroki Kuroda took the mantle as the team's ace, but a first inning hiccup prevented the Yanks from making it two wins in a row. Kuroda was tagged for 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning thanks for a 3-run shot from Michael Brantley. Yankee scoring only came in the 6th with a RBI sac fly from Mark Teixeira off of Indians starter Justin Masterson. The bases were left loaded in the inning and the last out with a hard hit ball from Russell Martin that was flagged out on the warning track. The bags would be left loaded again in the 7th as Teixeira ended the inning with a weak pop-up as the Yankees offensive woes continue. Kuroda was able to get it together and went the full 8 innings, but the Bombers were never able to get to Masterson or the Indians bullpen. Chris Perez came on in the 9th to seal it for the Tribe and tie the series at a game a piece.

             The final game was crucial for the Yankees in order to prevent the road trip from being a total-absolute-complete disaster after getting swept in Chicago and the possibility of losing two out of three to the awful Indians. It would be the soft-tossing Freddy Garcia versus the hard-throwing Ubaldo Jimenez and Jimenez was the first to blink by surrendering three runs in the top of the 2nd. An Ichiro RBI single, followed by a Jeter RBI groundout, and Nick Swisher RBI single gave Garcia a 3-0 lead. Just like the start in Chicago, Freddy rolled along early, but faced adversity soon enough. The Indians loaded the bases in the 3rd, but Garcia got out of the jam unscathed. Then in the 5th the Indians did it again with loading the bags, and were able to push across two runs from a Carlos Santana hit. Girardi took Garcia out in the 5th and elected for Boone Logan to get out of the inning. Curtis Granderson gave the Yankees a little cushion by adding a solo homer in the top of the 6th, and then the rest of the way Girardi mixed and matched his bullpen along in playoff fashion, including four outs from closer Rafael Soriano, to get out of Cleveland with the 4-2 win. Before the final out, a line drive hit Soriano in the right arm, but the cold-demeanored Soriano shook it off and was able to record the final out for his 33rd save of the season.

             The 74-53 Yankees get out the clean pinstripes out of the drier and get set to pad up their lead again against AL East neighbors the Toronto Blue Jays and wildcard-seeking Baltimore Orioles....

Southside Snoozefest

             A trip to middle-America has caused Yankees fans to start sweating when three losses to the White Sox, coupled with the surging Tampa Bay Rays, have dangerously cut the Yanks' lead in the AL East to just 2.5 games. It's gotten so bad Yankees manager Joe Girardi almost tore off the head of a heckler in a postgame press conference after just have been swept in the Windy City.

             It was a sunny start for the Yankees in the first game when Chicago starter Gavin Floyd was chased by the 3rd inning by the Bombers, and his 0-3 score deficit could've been much worse. Freddy Garcia was cruising along for the Yankees and it wasn't until the 5th inning when the roof caved in on him. Chicago started their scoring with a 2-run homer from the released-Yankee Dewayne Wise.

             Garcia couldn't get anyone else out and was yanked out in favor of Cody Eppley after going just 4.1 innings, but Rapada and Chamberlain would also be needed to finally get out of the 5th, and by then Chicago had taken a 5-3 lead. Derek Jeter brought his hot hitting on the road with him and hit a solo shot to bring the Yanks to 5-4 in the 6th. Both Mark Teixeira and Casey McGehee had RBI singled to reclaim the Yankee lead at 6-5. In the bottom of the frame, the struggling from his return from the minors Chamberlain, still in the game from the 5th, served up a solo homer to the bottom of the order hitter Gordon Beckham to blow the lead and let the game be tied at 6. The Chicago homers didn't end there; Alexis Ramirez went deep on Logan in the 7th and Adam Dunn took Derek Lowe yard in the 8th to give the White Sox the 9-6 lead. Addison Reed came on in the 9th to close it out for Chicago for his 22nd save of the season.

             After blowing a tough game the night before in which the opposing starter was knocked out early, the Yankees got right back up on the horse and busted out into a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning off of old Twins pushover Francisco Liriano. Jeter lead off the game with a homerun, and later in the inning, Curtis Granderson grounded into a fielder's choice RBI with the bases loaded (a double or grand slam would've been nicer). Ivan Nova, who had the Yankees and their fans holding their breath with every start since the All-Star break, gave half one of the runs back in the 2nd from an AJ Pierzynski sac fly that scored Alex Rios, but held Chicago there. It wasn't until the 5th inning that Nova had his usual implosion. With the game already tied 2-2 from a homer Nova served to Konerko in the 4th, Nova gave up another big fly to Kevin Youkilis, but this time the bases were full for a grand slam. Nova was only able to go 6 innings and it was yet another miserable start for the young Yankee right-hander. After the game, and possibly a reason for his poor pitching lately, Nova was placed on the 15-day DL for shoulder tightness, but maybe its just to clear his head as well. Russell Martin added a solo homer in the 7th to bring the game back to a respectable 6-3 Chicago lead, but the White Sox added another run in the 8th to make it 7-3 and that's how the game ended.

             Bad enough the Yankees were facing a sweep and continued to be stymied by the White Sox, but the Jekyll-n-Hide Phil Hughes on the road was on the mound for the finale. Hughes ended up spinning a good game over 7 innings, but the only problem was that Chicago's young lefty Chris Sale was slightly better. The White Sox got on the board first with an RBI fly out by Kevin Youkilis in the 3rd inning. Liking the Windy City air, Derek Jeter hit his third homer of the series in the 6th to tie the game at 1-1, but Hughes surrendered a homer to Alex Rios in the bottom of the 6th to give Chicago back their lead at 2-1. The Yankee bats were quiet again and Addison Reed finished them off in the 9th to complete the Chicago sweep. The Media had also been unfriendly for the Yankees as ESPN reporter Skip Bayless had open speculation that the 38 year-old Yankee Captain Derek Jeter might be using performance-enhancing drugs as a reason for his great hitting lately, and in the wake of positive tests recently from former Yankees Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. After the final White Sox game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi interrupted his own press conference to go over and tell a heckling fan to shut up, which was captured by news cameras.

             With the trailing Rays and Orioles seemingly never losing a game anymore, a series against the terrible Cleveland Indians, with the return of CC Sabathia from the DL, couldn't have have come at a better time...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

That's what it should look like

             A few weekends ago the struggling Boston Red Sox came into Yankee Stadium and stole two out of three thanks to late-inning heroics from Pedro Ciriaco and former-Yankee Alfredo Aceves. After a new bout of controversies concerning rumored reports that Red Sox players want manager Bobby Valentine removed from his position, the Sox make another trip to the high-flying Yankees after they just took three out of four against the Texas Rangers. If the deck wasn't stacked against Boston enough, their slugger David Ortiz was still on the DL with his Achilles injury.

             The Sox, coming up north to the Stadium after getting slapped around at Camden Yards by the Orioles, were slapped around again to start the first game with three solo homers off of Franklin Morales with Swisher in the 1st, and then Granderson and Russell Martin adding two more in the 2nd. To their credit, the Red Sox battled back and put up a crooked number in the 3rd to take a 4-3 lead. Some sloppy defense with Phil Hughes, making the start, lead to Boston's first run, and then a 3-run homer from Dustin Pedroia accounted for the 4th run of the inning. It was the Captain's task to get the Yanks back and he single-handily took care of it with a solo home run in the 5th. With the homer, Derek Jeter became the 10th Yankee with 10 or more homers on the squad. It was also Jeter's 250th homer of his hall of fame career. Jayson Nix put the Yankees ahead 5-4 with a RBI hit in the 6th, and then in the 7th Nick Swisher, filling in for Mark Teixeira the entire weekend at first base as he nurses a sore wrist again, capped off the night with one more solo homerun to make it 6-4 Yankees. Rafael Soriano worked the 9th inning and earned his 30th save of the season while securing Phil Hughes' 12th win for the 7 innings he gave against Boston.

             In what would've been a match-up of lefties with CC Sabathia vs. Jon Lester, fans instead were treated to Lester and David Phelps due to Sabathia's injury. Boston got on the board in the 1st with Adrian Gonzalez going opposite field with his power over the left field wall with Carl Crawford on that gave Boston the early 2-0 lead. Curtis Granderson cut into the lead at 2-1 with a solo jack off of Lester in the 4th, but from there Lester and the rest of the Boston pitching would be stingy. Jon Lester would put in a rare good start this season, going 7 innings and only giving up the one run to Granderson. Nick Punto added a RBI double to score Pedro Ciriaco in the 5th that made with 3-1 Boston, and in the 9th Scott Podsednik came across the plate on a wild pitch from Cody Eppley which put Boston comfortably ahead 4-1 against the slumbering Yankee bats, that seemed to have taken the afternoon off. Overall Phelps was decent and took the ball into the 7th inning, but he had no run support. Alfredo Aceves put the Yankees down in the 9th and tied the weekend series at a game a piece to the delight of ESPN executives looking for a more enticing rubbermatch for their Sunday Night Baseball program that continues to milk four-hour games from this rivalry.

              Seeing what Jon Lester was able to do, Josh Beckett must have also pondered memories of being a top-pitcher as he gunned against the red-hot Hiroki Kuroda. Jeter removed any hopes of Beckett also shutting down the Bombers in the 1st with a booming leadoff double, and he would later score on a 2-out base hit from Curtis Granderson. Derek Jeter doubled again in the 3rd, part of a 3-hit night, and scored on a wild pitch from Beckett while he was facing Robinson Cano. As Kuroda kept the Red Sox at bay, his countryman Ichiro decided to get into the action with the long ball off of Beckett; a solo shot to the second deck in right in the 4th inning, and then another solo job in the 6th deeper to the lower deck in right that made the crowd chant for an Ichiro curtain call. Kuroda's only blemish was giving up a solo homer of his own to Adrian Gonzalez in the top of the 7th that made it 4-1 Yankees, but he never lost his groove and finished the 7th and pitched the entire 8th inning with no further runs surrendered. Manager Joe Girardi didn't let Kuroda go out for the 9th to achieve consecutive complete games, instead he went with Soriano to save it. Carl Crawford started the inning with a lead off single, but that was erased on a double play grounder from Dustin Pedroia. Soriano struck out Adrian Gonzalez to end the game and served justice for the Yanks losing out to Boston weeks ago. It was the 31st save of the season for Soriano and the 12th win of the season for Kuroda who continues to throw quality innings against tough ballclubs.

             With the Japanese wing of the Yankees, Kuroda and Ichiro, going strong, the 72-49 Yankees head out to the Midwest with stops in Chicago and Cleveland...

The heavyweights decide it

             The New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers have established themselves as the best two teams in the AL (perhaps even across MLB) up to this point in the season and the scheduling gods placed them in a mid-August four-game bout at the new Yankee Stadium in a very possible playoff preview. With CC Sabathia out of the fold for the opener, young David Phelps was asked by Girardi to grow up a little more against the big-boy Texas lineup.The only toy tossed Phelps' way was that the Rangers were without the power-hitting Mike Napoli, on the DL with a quad injury.

             The Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster at the trading deadline and the long-time NL pitcher opposed Phelps in one of the most infamous AL homer-friendly ballparks. The Rangers struck first with an RBI single by Nelson Cruz in the 1st inning, and then a golfed David Murphy solo homer to right in the 2nd. Dempster must have thought this AL-hitting stuff was nothing but a myth when the yielded no hits in his first two inning of work. Then came the 3rd, Russell Martin lead off the inning with a single, followed by a Raul Ibanez single as well. Ichiro moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt which put runners of second and third with one out. The next hitter, Jeter, walked, and that set up a base loaded situation for Nick Swisher. With one swing Swisher brought them all home on a grand slam and gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead they would never look back from.

             The Yankees added another run in the inning from a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly that plated Cano, but the bases were loaded again and there was the possibility of a second grand slam in the 3rd. That was enough for David Phelps to get the win as he put in 5 solid innings with only giving up the 2 runs, and actually picking off two Ranger runners on the base pads. The newly acquired Derrick Lowe made his Yankee debut and took the pitching reigns from there. Chavez celebrated Lowe's entrance with a solo homer in the 6th that made it 6-2 Yankees, and two more runs were tacked on in the 7th from Jeter and Swisher RBI hits (Swisher's 5th of the night). Lowe went 4 innings of no run ball and technically qualified for a save which must have made the Indians just proud. The first round between the sluggers went to the Yankees 8-2.

              There was another former Dodger to toss at the Rangers, that's Hiroki Kuroda, who has served as the Yanks' best pound-for-pound starting pitcher in 2012. Facing him was the 13-7 lefty Matt Harrison and both pitchers refused to give an inch over the first 6 innings. In fact, Kuroda flirted with a no-hitter and it wasn't until the top of the 7th until he finally surrendered one to Elvis Andrus. With Jeter given a half-day with being the DH, Andrus was able to leg out an infield single on a tough play Jayson Nix wasn't able to complete. It begs to wonder had Jeter been at short that night - would've the play been made?

              Perhaps the Bombers couldn't score off of Harrison, but they certainly were able to run his pitch count up and had him out of the game after a one-out Derek Jeter single. Rangers manager Ted Washington selected hard-throwing Alexi Ogando to face the previous night's hero, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira; both ended up in homeruns. Swisher's a 2-run shot with Jeter on that went deep to the Yankee bullpen, and Teixeira lined one that barely got over the right field wall. Now with a lead, Kuroda was able to get the final six outs on his own for a dominating two-hit complete game shutout that sealed the 3-0 victory for the Yanks.

             Rain delayed the start of the third round of the fight, and this time Freddy Garcia's turn came up to keep the Rangers off the board. The Garcia resurgence, ever since he was inserted back into the rotation after Pettitte went down, and Kuroda, are two big reason the Yankees haven't lost their positioning on top of the AL East with their rash of injuries to big-named players. After being suppressed over the first two games, it would seem the Ranger bats would bust out against the junk-throwing Garcia, but the Ranger bats were just as impotent against the steady diet of splitters, sliders, sinkers, and curves. The only Ranger to show up was Josh Hamilton, who actually hit two solo homers, and it was his first two ever in regular season play at the new Yankee Stadium.

             Luckily for Garcia, the Yankees were already up 3-0 and 3-1 when he gave up those shots to Hamilton. The Yankees took care of all their scoring in the 3rd inning from a bloop RBI double from Nick Swisher, yet again, hurting the Rangers with the first run of the game. A sacrifice fly by Granderson and a nice opposite field RBI single from Eric Chavez gave the Yanks all the 3 runs that they would need off of starter Scott Feldman. Garcia took the ball into the 7th and gave 6.2 innings, with Boone Logan entering the game to get the last out of the inning. It came down to the bottom of the 9th with Rafael Soriano on the mound and Josh Hamilton up again looking for his third homerun of the night. Soriano refused that to happen and struck out the Ranger slugger, then finished off the save for his jersey number 29th of the season. With the win, the Yankees guaranteed themselves the consideration of being the number one team in the AL since they would, at a minimum, have taken three out of four against the mighty defending AL champs.

                An afternoon matinee in the sunny Bronx was the stage for the final game as the Rangers looked to leave town with some shred of dignity while the wide-eyed Yankees targeted for the sweep. The struggling Ivan Nova took the start for the Yankees and was looking to improve on his good start last Sunday up in Toronto. Adrian Beltre but the Rangers up 2-0 in the 1st inning with a bloop RBI single that dunked in in front of Granderson in short center. In the top of the 3rd, the Rangers threatened to score more with the bases loaded and no out!! But Nova kept his composure by striking out Josh Hamilton, and then getting the next two outs and keep the game at 2-0 Rangers only. By the 6th Nova was challenged again by a lead off double from Hamilton. He would score, along with Beltre later on in the inning, and the Yanks were now down 4-0. This was the inning the Yanks turned it on as well and put a big five-spot on the board, highlighted by a 2-run homer from Andruw Jones that tied the game at 4. After Derek Holland was chased from the inning, Tanner Scheppers was inserted into the game and Russell Martin greeting him with a RBI single that actually put the Yanks ahead 5-4 after being behind for most the afternoon.

             With a mega sweep on the tips of their fingers, the Yankees gave it right back in top of the 7th. The usually reliable bullpen was cuffed up for three runs. Still looking to work his way into the mix, Joba Chamberlain failed to make a case for himself as the go-to 7th inning guy as a walk and a 2 RBI single to Craig Gentry helped put the Rangers ahead 7-5. The Yankees inched back with a run in the bottom of the 7th to make it 7-6, but Texas kept put runs on the board; two in the 8th and another in the 9th. Long-time Twins closer and now member of the Rangers' pen, Joe Nathan came on in the bottom of the 9th to finish off Texas' only win in New York.

            A sweep against Texas would've been cool, but taking three games out of four puts the Yankees at the 70-win plateau with a 70-48 record, and after being mired in a funk for a few weeks, one could fully say the Yankees are the team to beat in the AL and MLB with a little more than a month of baseball left....