Thursday, August 20, 2009

West Coast Rockers


Now that's getting the job done on a seven-game West Coast swing -- and that's how you start draining hope from Red Sox Nation that the pretenders from Beantown will be able to catch the Yankees for the division title.

On Wednesday, Mark Teixeira homered and drove in all three runs to support spot starter Chad Gaudin and the bullpen in a 3-2 victory over the A's in Oakland to remain seven games in front of the Sox in the AL East.

The victory guarantees that when our two rivals begin their three-game set in Boston Friday, the Yankees will have no worse than the same 6-1/2 game lead the held following their four-game sweep of the Sox, who play at Toronto tonight, 10 games ago.

After that sweep, Red Sox Nation was holding onto hope that the Sox could still take the division, citing the two head-to-head series remaining between the teams and the Yankees' schedule that included two West Coast trips.

Well, one of the West Coast trip is out of the way.

The Yankees turned to Gaudin to finish off the A's as they try to limit Joba Chamberlain's innings.

In his first start since being acquired from the Padres, Gaudin was wild, but decent enough. In 4-1/3 innings, he allowed no runs on one hit, but walked five. He struck out five, but threw 90 pitches -- 51 strikes -- in coming up short of qualifying for the victory.

The walks clearly were an indication that Gaudin had a little rust, but he battled and competed and kept the Yankees in the game. The hope is that he will be sharper his next time out, though no one knows for sure when that will be at this point as the Yankees figure out how to juggle the rotation, space out Joba and get A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte some rest down the stretch.

Teixeira, meanwhile, carried the offense, driving in Derek Jeter with a ground out in the first before crushing a 94 mph fastball over the wall in left for a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

That was all the Yankees were able to get off Brett Anderson (7-9, 4.51 ERA), who allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six in seven innings, but it was enough.

The bullpen made the lead stand up, though Alfredo Aceves (8-1, 3.82) struggled yet again, allowing Jack Cust's homer in the sixth and Mark Ellis' RBI single in the seventh while pitching 2-1/3 innings.

Ace has not been sharp recently, allowing runs in five of his last seven appearances. In his five appearances in August, he's allowed seven runs on 12 hits spanning 13 innings.

Whether Ace is tired, coming back to earth or simply going through a slump, the Yankees have to be careful here. They need to get him through this funk and rest, right now, would seem to be the best option.

Fortunately the rosters will expand in 12 days, giving the team some extra arms. Until then, Joe Girardi should start using Brian Bruney, who has not thrown a lot of innings this year and seems to be over his slump, more and in pressurized situations.

Phil Coke pitched a third of an inning before Phil Hughes got through a tough eighth, getting a double play after allowing a walk and single to start the inning. Mariano Rivera then finished it off in seven pitches for his 36th save and 32nd straight.

The Yankees now have a day off as they fly back to the East Coast happy and confident heading into the big series in Boston.

Runners In Scoring Position
0-for-3 (.000)
288-for-1,114 (.259)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
72-for-295 (.244)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
223-for-842 (.265)
Vs. Red Sox
20-for-126 (.159)

Up Next
Friday at Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., YES, NESN
Pettitte (9-6, 4.09) vs. Brad Penney (7-7, 5.22)

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