Mo is still the Man

Rain falls on the dugout roof as the game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees is rained out

A soggy Stadium as the game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees is rained out

Friday, June 5, 2009: (At Home)

Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays was rained out. A makeup date has not been set yet.

AJ Burnett was suspended six games Thursday for throwing high-and-tight to Texas’ Nelson Cruz earlier this week, but the right-hander appealed the penalty and can continue to pitch until a hearing is held.

Mariano Rivera sits in the dugout after leaving the game in the 9th

Mariano Rivera sits in the dugout after leaving the game in the 9th

Saturday, June 6, 2009: (At Home)

No matter which hitters the Tampa Bay Rays send up against Mariano Rivera, they hardly seem intimidated.

 Joe Dillon hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning and the surging Rays got to Rivera for the second time this season, beating the Yankees 9-7, despite committing four errors.

 B.J. Upton added an RBI single off the star closer, part of a four-run rally that carried the AL champions to their fourth straight victory and sixth in seven games.

David Price left with a chance to beat CC Sabathia in a much-anticipated matchup pitting a potential ace against an established one. But the Yankees scored twice in the eighth against Tampa Bay’s bullpen, tying it 5-all.

 Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist homered for the Rays, who doubled their previous season-high for errors in a game. Three were wild throws by All-Star catcher Dioner Navarro.

 Tampa Bay is 3-0 at the new Yankee Stadium, including an 8-6 victory May 7 when Rivera served up back-to-back homers for the first time in his career. Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria connected for ninth-inning solo shots in that one.

This time, injury fill-ins Dillon and Ben Zobrist sparked the burst against Rivera.

 “I think anytime you do something against a closer and you do it in recent memory, it gives you a little bit of confidence,” said Zobrist, who opened the inning with a triple.

Zobrist tripled to left-center and scored on a single by Dillon, a journeyman who was acquired from Oakland on May 9. Dillon has three hits in each of the past two games, matching his career-high each time.

Upton added a two-out RBI single off Rivera (0-2), who was then lifted from the game — a rare sight. Crawford hit a run-scoring single off Phil Coke and another run scored on Rodriguez’s error at third.

“After the team ties the game, it was tough to go out and do that,” Rivera said. “Especially when you know that you have the top of your lineup coming up. You just want to get three outs and then you look up and it’s four runs.”

 Mark Teixeira homered in the eighth and hit a two-run double in the ninth for the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez also went deep for the Yankees, who have won 17 of 22.

Handed a 9-5 cushion, Rays reliever Dan Wheeler gave up three straight hits to start the ninth, then retired Rodriguez and Jorge Posada with Teixeira on second.

 Ex-Yankee Randy Choate got Robinson Cano on a long fly to center for his third save in eight days — the first three of his major league career, which began in 2000. Upton made a lunging grab to end it. 

Rivera hadn’t allowed four runs in a game since April 27, 2007, against Boston.  

Sabathia went eight innings, giving up five runs (four earned) and five hits. He entered 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay.

Mariano Rivera gets retribution and the save in the Yankees' 4-3 win

Mariano Rivera gets retribution and the save in the Yankees' 4-3 win

  Sunday, June 7, 2009: (At Home)

A day after one of his worst relief outings, Mariano Rivera was right where he wanted to be: back on the mound.

 Unlike Saturday, when his manager ordered him to walk Evan Longoria, Rivera got his chance to face Tampa Bay’s slugger, this time with two outs in the ninth inning and a one-run lead to protect.  

And the outcome was more familiar. Rivera got Longoria to ground meekly to second, closing out the Yankees‘ 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Rays for his 495th career save.

“I guess Mo was right,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Nick Swisher hit the 100th home run at the new Yankee Stadium, helping Girardi earn his 200th win as a manager. Alfredo Aceves (4-1) pitched two scoreless innings in the Yankees’ major league-leading 20th comeback victory this season.  

Hideki Matsui beat out a potential double-play grounder to drive in the go-ahead run during a three-run eighth inning, setting the stage for Rivera’s 13th save of the season.

 Rivera was upset after being forced to intentionally walk an ailing Longoria to face B.J. Upton in the Rays’ four-run ninth inning of a 9-7 victory Saturday. On Sunday, however, he said he didn’t second-guess his manager and had forgotten the outing before the game.

With the Yankees trailing 3-1 with one out in the eighth, Johnny Damon lined a single off Grant Balfour (2-1), and Mark Teixeira followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Alex Rodriguez walked to load the bases.

J.P. Howell relieved and walked Robinson Cano, making it 3-2. Jorge Posada then hit a bouncer to third that Willy Aybar, subbing for Longoria (hamstring), couldn’t handle. Teixeira scored the tying run, Posada was given an RBI and Aybar was charged with an error.

 Matsui then chopped a soft grounder to second and beat the throw to first, preventing an inning-ending double play and giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead, which Rivera preserved.

Swisher’s 11th homer in the third made it 28 games in a row with a homer at the new Yankee Stadium.

Mark Teixeira connects for a 2nd inning home run off Tampa Bay Rays' Andy Sonnanstine

Mark Teixeira connects for a homer in the 2nd off Tampa Bay Rays' Andy Sonnanstine

  Monday, June 8, 2009: (At Home)

Four more home runs by the Yankees — all to right field — backed Andy Pettitte in a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Teixeira’s solo homer in the first and Swisher’s two-run drive in the second built a 3-0 lead, but the Rays tied the score in the fourth after Alex Rodriguez bobbled Ben Zobrist‘s leadoff grounder to third for an error. Michel Hernandez had an RBI single and Gabe Kapler followed with a two-run homer to left, Kapler’s first home run since Sept. 7 for Milwaukee off San Diego’s Chris Young.

Solo homers by Damon in the sixth and Jeter in the eighth finished Andy Sonnanstine (4-6), who gave up four homers for the first time in his big league career and dropped to 1-6 on the road.

There have been 105 homers in 29 games at the new ballpark, a sharp increase from the 160 last season at the original Yankee Stadium, and 63 have been hit to right and right-center. The Yankees won despite finishing with just six hits — and no plate appearances with runners in scoring position — for the first time since May 14, 2006.

Pettitte (6-2) allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits in six innings, striking out a season-high seven. After walking 11 in his previous two starts, he cut his bases on balls to three.

Phil Hughes, bumped to the bullpen so Chien-Ming Wang could rejoin the rotation, followed with a 1-2-3 seventh in his first major league regular-season relief outing after 28 starts. 

Phil Coke followed with a hitless eighth and Mariano Rivera finished with a perfect ninth for save No. 496, his 14th save in 15 chances this year.

The Yankees improved the AL’s best record to 34-23, opened a one-game AL East lead over second-place Boston, and improved to 21-0 when allowing three runs or fewer.

The Yankees have made at least one error in six straight games since the end of their record 18-game errorless streak.

The Yankees head to Boston after the game for a three-game series against the Red Sox, who are 5-0 against them this year. Then they return home for a weekend 3-game Subway Series against the Mets.

Andy Pettitte improves to 6-2 in the Yankees' 5-3 win over Tampa

Andy Pettitte improved to 6-2 in the Yankees' 5-3 win over Tampa

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The Eyes of Texas

Joe Girardi calms down Mark Teixeira after Teixeira was hit by a pitch from Rangers starter Vicente Padilla for the second time

Joe Girardi calms down Mark Teixeira after Teixeira was hit by a pitch from Rangers starter Vicente Padilla for the second time

Tuesday, June 2, 2009: (At Home)

Mark Teixeira was hit below the right shoulder by Vicente Padilla in the second inning. Then he was hit on the buttocks in the fourth.

 Convinced he was being thrown at, Teixeira followed with a slide at second that sent shortstop Elvis Andrus flying and sparked the Yankees in a seven-run fourth inning. The Yankees coasted past the Texas Rangers 12-3 to take over best record in the American League at 31-21.

“We did the talking with our bats,” Teixeira said.

When Teixeira faced Padilla (3-3) for the first time on June 9, 2005, he homered in the first and third innings during Texas’ 10-8 loss at Philadelphia, then was hit by a pitch in the fifth.

 “Every time I’ve faced him since, there seem to be balls near my head, near my body, and today I got hit twice,” Teixeira said. “Not the right way to play the game. Unfortunately, you know, that guy has been doing it his whole career.”

 Teixeira said he even talked to Padilla about it when they were together on the Rangers in 2006-07.

 “There’s really no reason for it in baseball. You know, if you can’t get a guy out, don’t hit him. You know, if you don’t want to pitch to a guy, then, you know, put four fingers out there and walk him,” Teixeira said. “And, unfortunately, when I was a teammate, it happened a lot where he would hit guys, and the 3-4 hitters, those are the guys that got hit for retaliation, and I got hit plenty of times.”

Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada hit three-run homers for the Yankees, and Derek Jeter became the fourth active player with 1,500 runs — and just the fourth in Yankees history.

 A.J. Burnett (4-2) beat Texas for the second time in a week, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings and striking out eight. He threw a pitch over the head of Nelson Cruz in the fifth that sent the cleanup hitter sprawling, prompting plate umpire Doug Eddings to warn both dugouts. Cruz had put the Rangers ahead 3-2 with a three-run homer in the third. 

 Teixeira was hit for the second time after Johnny Damon‘s RBI single tied it at 3. Teixeira shouted, and manager Joe Girardi came out to calm his player.

 “I just wanted to make sure nothing escalated,” Girardi said. “You don’t like seeing your guys get plunked, especially twice by the same guy.”

 Alex Rodriguez then grounded to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who flipped to Andrus for the forceout at second. Teixeira didn’t slide far off the line, but clipped Andrus enough to cause a bounced throw that A-Rod beat to avoid a double play.

 Jeter came home from third for a 4-3 lead and joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees with 1,500 runs. The only other active players to reach the mark are Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield.

The Yankees have won 16 of 20 to reach 10 games over .500, a mark the Yankees didn’t achieve until their 100th game last year.

Rangers starter Scott Feldman pitching against the Yankees

Rangers starter Scott Feldman pitching against the Yankees

Wednesday, June 3, 2009: (At Home)

Scott Feldman stayed with the same game plan that has served him well during his successful run in Texas’ rotation — get ground balls and watch the Rangers’ defense gobble them up.

 Feldman pitched into the seventh inning to win his third consecutive start and the Rangers cooled off the Yankees with a 4-2 victory.

Andrus and Ian Kinsler each had two hits for Texas, which leapfrogged the Yankees for the best record in the American League. Andrus is batting .417 (10 for 24) in his last seven road games.

Feldman (5-0) allowed two runs, one earned, and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He is 5-0 with a 2.63 ERA in eight starts since he joined the rotation in April.

Andy Pettitte, who left his previous start with a stiff back, looked shaky in his five-inning outing.

The Rangers took advantage of Pettitte’s control problems to score three times in the first. Kinsler walked and scored on Nelson Cruz‘s one-out single. Murphy followed Cruz’s hit with another walk, setting up Marlon Byrd‘s run-scoring fielder’s choice.

Texas wasted a chance for an even bigger start when Byrd was thrown out at third trying to advance on Chris Davis‘ RBI single, ending the inning.

Pettitte, who said his back was fine, helped the Rangers again in the second. He threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt, allowing Andrus to reach second. The 20-year-old speedster stole third and scored on Kinsler’s single to make it 4-1.

Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus robbed Robinson Cano twice, and third baseman Michael Young deftly turned an inning-ending double play on Alex Rodriguez‘s bases-loaded grounder in the third.

Pettitte (5-2) never looked comfortable on a damp and unseasonably cold night in the Bronx. A steady rain fell on the field for about two hours but it let up right before the game, delaying the start by 12 minutes before giving way to a chilly, 55-degree evening.

“I was behind, I couldn’t get ahead of anybody,” Pettitte said. “It was embarrassing, actually. We’re playing too good for me to go out there and scuffle like that.”

Jorge Posada homered for the second straight day for the Yankees, who have won 5 of 6 and 16 of 20.

Melky Cabrera (right) runs the bases after hitting a home run off of Texas Rangers relief pitcher C.J. Wilson

Melky Cabrera (right) runs the bases after hitting a home run off of Texas Rangers relief pitcher C.J. Wilson in the 8th

Thursday, June 4, 2009: (At Home)

Chien-Ming Wang bounced a few sinkers, slipped on the mound, and watched his final pitch sail far over the fence.

David Robertson took a more simple approach.

Melky Cabrera hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning and the  Yankees overcame yet another poor start by Wang to beat the Texas Rangers 8-6.

 The Yankees rallied from a 5-1 deficit and took two of three from the AL West leaders. Robertson threw only one pitch and wound up with the win.

Cabrera kept up his run of big hits and helped the Yankees win for the 17th time in 22 games. They did it despite Wang’s wobbles.

Wang returned to the rotation and produced his best start of the season. Too bad for him, it was another stinker as his sinkers were either too high or too low.

 Texas tagged him for five runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. Nelson Cruz chased him with a long home run — the first by a right-handed hitter off Wang in 22 starts, since Adrian Beltre connected in September 2007.

It was another game of home run derby at the new Yankee Stadium. Johnny Damon started it with a leadoff shot for New York, Cruz finished Wang in the fifth with a long drive and Ian Kinsler‘s solo homer for Texas in the sixth tied it at 6.

 C.J. Wilson (3-3) relieved to begin the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano. One out later, Cabrera launched a drive over left fielder David Murphy‘s leap. 

Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances.

There has been a home run in all 26 games at the new Yankee Stadium.

Johnny Damon (18) celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run in the 1st inning

Johnny Damon (18) celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run in the 1st

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Moving On Up… In Style

Andy Pettitte pitching in the 1st inning against Cleveland

Andy Pettitte pitching in the 1st inning against Cleveland

 Friday, May 29, 2009: (At Cleveland)

There are no awards or celebrations for gaining sole possession of first place on May 29, but the Yankees had no problem enjoying the visit to a neighborhood they hadn’t reached for quite some time.

Andy Pettitte pitched into the sixth inning before leaving with lower back stiffness, and the Yankees held on for a 3-1 victory over the Indians, finally owning the American League East’s top spot for the first time since the end of the 2006 season.

While Pettitte’s balky lower back gave cause for concern and painted a less-than-certain outlook for his next start, there were plenty of reasons for the Yankees — winners of 13 out of 16 — to feel good on a crisp, midge-filled evening at Progressive Field.

Lifted with two runners aboard and none out in the sixth inning, Pettitte yielded pitching duties to Alfredo Aceves, who continued his run of impressive relief showings by allowing only a sacrifice fly charged to Pettitte to escape that jam, hurling three scoreless innings of his own.

That put the ball in the capable right hand of closer Mariano Rivera, who preserved a Pettitte victory for the 58th time — surpassing the tally held by Oakland’s Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley, the highest total of win-to-save combinations since the save rule’s 1969 inception.

“It means we are old,” Rivera said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time, that’s what it means. It’s great. I think nobody deserves that more than Andy. He’s been a big guy for us, and I’m glad that I just follow and try to do my job.”

Working deep at-bats against Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee, the Yankees threatened in the first inning before managing to score twice in the second inning and once more in the third.

Derek Jeter had an RBI single and Teixeira a run-scoring groundout in the second inning, scoring Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, respectively. Swisher added a sacrifice fly in the third to bring home Robinson Cano as Lee scattered nine hits, walking two and striking out five.

CC Sabathia pitching in the 1st inning against Cleveland

CC Sabathia pitching in the 1st inning against Cleveland

Saturday, May 30, 2009: (At Cleveland)

CC Sabathia knew he had a no-hitter going in his return to Cleveland — at least for a little while.

 Sabathia didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, and the surging Yankees got homers from Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher in a 10-5 victory over the Indians.

Sabathia, who is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five starts, knew the situation.

 “Any pitcher who tells you they don’t know is lying,” Sabathia said. “But I don’t know what no-hit stuff feels like. I just know I felt comfortable being back on the mound here. I wasn’t nervous.”

 Sabathia (5-3) allowed three runs, five hits, and three walks, striking out eight.

 Robinson Cano drove in three runs, while Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon had two RBIs apiece as the Yankees opened a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL East over Boston with their 14th win in 17 games.

Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta (r) is congratulated after his game-winning single in the 9th

Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta (r) is congratulated after game-winning single in the 9th

Sunday, May 31, 2009: (At Cleveland)

Jhonny Peralta took an easy approach and lined a hard game-winning hit.

 Cleveland’s third baseman drove in three runs with three hits, including a one-out RBI single in the ninth inning as the Indians defeated the Yankees 5-4.

Peralta pulled the 3-1 offering from David Robertson past diving third baseman Alex Rodriguez on the backhand side to score Trevor Crowe from second base.

Mark Teixeira extended his season-high hitting streak to 13 games and had four RBIs. He hit a two-run homer, his 16th, in the sixth off former Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano. His two-run double off Matt Herges in the eighth tied it at 4.

“He’s been hot his whole career, not just now,” Pavano said of Teixeira, who is hitting .400 with 20 RBIs during his streak.

 The Yankees played their 17th straight errorless game, tying the major league record set by Boston in June 2006, and lost for only the fourth time in 18 games.

 Kerry Wood (2-2) got Jorge Posada to bounce into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third in the top of the ninth.

 Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Brett Gardner at first base the steal sign with Posada up, but the rookie didn’t go. 

Phil Coke (1-3) came on in the bottom half and walked Crowe, who was bunted to second by Asdrubal Cabrera. Robertson replaced Coke and walked Ben Francisco before yielding Peralta’s hit.

Joba Chamberlain pitches 8 innings for the win against Cleveland

Joba Chamberlain pitches 8 innings for the win against Cleveland

Monday, June 1, 2009: (At Cleveland)

The midges didn’t affect Joba Chamberlain in his first start in Cleveland — and neither did the Indians’ hitters.

 Chamberlain allowed two runs in a career-high eight innings and the Yankees set a record for consecutive games without making an error in a 5-2 victory against Cleveland on Monday night.

 Chamberlain (3-1) retired the first 11 batters before Victor Martinez‘s home run in the fourth. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five. He showed great velocity, still hitting 97 mph on the radar gun in the eighth.

“Maybe he’s mad at the midges,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Bugs headlined Chamberlain’s relief appearance in the American League Division Series two years ago, when they swarmed and distracted him while he walked Grady Sizemore and threw two wild pitches that enabled Cleveland to tie — and ultimately win — the game. The Indians went on to eliminate the Yankees in four games.

The Yankees squandered one bases-loaded scoring chance off Greg Aquino (1-1), but not the second.

Aquino walked the bases loaded in the seventh before Nick Swisher doubled home a pair of runs against him and Alex Rodriguez singled home two more. Before Swisher’s at-bat, he stepped out of the box and had to laugh at Derek Jeter‘s forecasting ability, since a storm was approaching the Cleveland area.

 “[Jeter] told me a couple of innings before it was going to start raining and it wasn’t going to stop, so we need to score right now,” Swisher said. “He’s on first base, and as soon as I came up, it started raining. I had to step out and laugh because it was the exact same situation he told me about.”

Aquino had entered in the sixth with no outs after Tribe starter Jeremy Sowers, who breezed through five innings, walked the bases loaded on 13 pitches. Aquino struck out Rodriguez, got a force at the plate on Jorge Posada‘s tapper back to the mound and ended the inning with Robinson Cano‘s lazy fly ball to left.

Chamberlain made a dazzling defensive play in the fifth, highlighting a milestone game for the the Yankee  fielders. The Yankees played error free for the 18th straight game, surpassing Boston’s major league mark of 17 set in 2006. The Yankees  last error came on May 13 at Toronto when shortstop Ramiro Pena misplayed a ground ball.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, Chamberlain’s diving catch of a popped up bunt by Kelly Shoppach turned into a double play when he stood and threw to second to get Ryan Garko, capping the play with a shout and fist pump. Jamey Carroll was thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning.

The Yankees are 14-4 during the errorless streak.

Indians pitchers set a season high with 11 walks and they lead the league with 222 walks issued.

The Yankees were 5-2 on the roadtrip and now return home for a 7-game homestand against Texas and Tampa Bay.

Nick Swisher doubles with the bases loaded to drive in 2 runs in the 7th

Nick Swisher doubles with the bases loaded to drive in 2 runs in the 7th

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Yanks set record

Joba Chamberlain makes a diving catch and then throws to 2nd for a double play

Joba Chamberlain makes a diving catch and then throws to 2nd for a double play

The Yankees today set a Major League record for 18 consecutive games without committing an error. That’s quite an achievement.

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Remember the Alamo

A-Rod collecting one of his five hits

A-Rod collecting one of his five hits

Monday’s game: May 25, 2009 (At Texas)

The only thing that felt awkward for Alex Rodriguez was wearing a red New York Yankees cap.

 A-Rod certainly wasn’t bothered by hearty boos he heard in his first game in Texas since admitting earlier this year that he used steroids while playing for the Rangers. 

Even while insisting there was no extra motivation, Rodriguez had the perfect response: matching a career high with five hits and driving in four runs in the Yankees 11-1 victory over the Rangers.

 “There’s no panic. I know exactly what I’m capable of doing,” Rodriguez said. “I’m feeling much better each and every day.”

After singling in the eighth inning in his fifth at-bat, A-Rod was lifted for a pinch runner with the Yankees already up 10-0. His first five-hit game since April 2005 raised his batting average 70 points — from .189 to .259. He had 10 hits his previous 16 games since being activated from the disabled list May 8.

Phil Hughes (3-2) limited the Rangers to three hits over eight shutout innings, leaving after 101 pitches. He had allowed 17 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings since throwing six scoreless innings in his first start of the season April 28 at Detroit.

Chris Davis celebrates one of his two homers against the Yankees

Chris Davis celebrates one of his two homers against the Yankees

Tuesday’s game: May 26, 2009 (At Texas)

His slump stretched to 1 for 30, Texas slugger Chris Davis at least felt he was making progress.

 Now he has something pretty cool to show for it: the first two-homer game of his career.

I was so happy to have two hits, I didn’t even care,” Davis said after his pair of solo shots helped the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees 7-3.

The start was held up 2 hours, 24 minutes because of rain. Due to the delay, the Yankees knew that Boston had lost, which meant a win would’ve tied them with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East

Joba Chamberlain gave up two runs in the first inning, then allowed Davis’ first homer leading off the fourth. Although the Yankees tied it at 3 in the top of the sixth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia restored Texas’ lead with a looping single in the bottom of the inning. Davis added an upper-deck homer in the eighth.

 OK, so he also struck out twice, upping his majors-leading total to 68. But after a recent 0-for-25 drought, it’s understandable that he’s going to remember this game for the homers, which give him 12 for the season.

 “The last few weeks have been about as tough as they could be so to have a night like tonight, it’s very encouraging,” Davis said. “I’m definitely going to take the two home runs away from this and try to build on it.”

Jason Jennings (2-1) got two outs in the sixth for the win, and Frank Francisco finished up. Davis’ second homer cost him a save opportunity.

 Marlon Byrd had a two-run single in the first inning to get the Rangers going, then scored the go-ahead run after a double off Yankees reliever Alfredo Aceves (3-1).

The Yankees, who’d won 11 of 13, had a lot going for them — 13 hits, a season-high five stolen bases, plus more freebies via a wild pitch and a passed ball.

But they failed to take advantage, such as hitting into double plays to end the seventh and eighth innings. 

A.J. Burnett pitches six shutout innings for the win

A.J. Burnett pitches six shutout innings for the win

  Wednesday’s game: May 27, 2009 (At Texas)

A.J. Burnett used a simple plan to end six weeks of struggles.

 Burnett pitched six shutout innings to win for the first time since April 14, Hideki Matsui homered twice and the Yankees gained a share of the AL East lead by beating the Texas Rangers 9-2.

The right-hander, who was 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA over his past seven starts, said he wanted to stay aggressive against a hard-hitting Rangers lineup.

 “I basically went after them,” Burnett said. “I didn’t leave anything over the plate. That’s a big difference. When you don’t make mistakes, they can’t capitalize.”

 Burnett (3-2) allowed three hits, walked four and struck out seven to snap his longest winless drought since the end of the 2005 season.  

After winning 18 games with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, Burnett won his first two starts in pinstripes before his lengthy slump.

“That’s the A.J. we all know and love,” said Mark Teixeira, who hit his 15th homer. “It all starts with starting pitching. If we get good starting pitching, we have a chance to win every single night with this offense.”

 The Yankees, who have won 12 of 15, are tied atop the division with Boston. It is the first time this season the Yakees have been in first place in the AL East.

 “It’s about the team,” Burnett said. “As long as I take a positive step forward, the wins will come.”

Derek Jeter was 3 for 4 and reached base five times, and Teixeira added his 12th homer in May. The Yankees had 15 hits and outscored the first-place Rangers 23-10 in the three-game series.

 Alex Rodriguez was 7-for-13 with four RBIs in his first series in Texas since admitting earlier this year that he used steroids while playing for the Rangers. For the third straight game, he was greeted with loud boos every time he came to the plate.

 Derek Holland (1-2) lost in his second career start, allowing 10 hits and six runs in five innings.

 “It’s definitely a little different facing the Yankees,” Holland said. “Each one was a tough out.”

 Matsui, who was in a 3-for-23 funk coming into the series, homered on the first pitch of the sixth inning from Holland. He added a two-run shot in the seventh off Warner Madrigal.

 It was Matsui’s third career multihomer game, and first since July 31, 2007, against the Chicago White Sox. 

Robinson Cano homered in the ninth, giving the Yankees 77 this season to tie the Rangers for the top total in baseball.

The Yankees took 2 out of 3 from the Rangers, and after tomorrow’s off day begin a 4-game series with the Cleveland Indians.

Mark Teixeira celebrates his two-run homer in the 1st inning

Mark Teixeira celebrates his two-run homer in the 1st inning

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Close, But No Cigar

AJ Burnett (2-2) gave up 5 runs in 6 innings and got the loss

AJ Burnett (2-2) gave up 5 runs in 6 innings and got the loss

Friday’s game: May 22, 2009 (At Home)

Jimmy Rollins sent A.J. Burnett’s first pitch of the night deep over the right-field scoreboard.

Carlos Ruiz had his first homer since Game 3 of last October’s World Series and Jayson Werth became the first player to reach the left field second deck.

For the Yankees, Mark Teixeira hit the first drive into the suite level, just below the upper deck.

Seven more home runs were hit at baseball’s newest launching pad on Friday night when the top home run-hitting teams in each league faced off. Four were hit by the Philadelphia Phillies, who rolled to a 7-3 victory in the first interleague game at new Yankee Stadium and ended the Yankees nine-game winning streak.

Raul Ibanez also homered for the World Series champions, who have won seven of eight — all on the road.

Alex Rodriguez hit his sixth since rejoining the Yankees on May 8 and with 559 pulled within four of Reggie Jackson for 11th on the career list. Derek Jeter and Teixeira connected in the eighth, after the Phillies had gone ahead 7-1.

There have been 82 homers at Yankee Stadium, a record for the first 21 games at a major league park, according to the Elias Sports Bureau and five more than were hit at Houston’s Enron Field in 2000. There already have been nine games of five or more homers and three of seven or more. Fifty-one of the homers have gone to right field. 

 Given a 5-0, fifth-inning lead, Brett Myers (4-2) allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings with no walks and five strikeouts. Burnett (2-2) dropped to 0-2 in his last seven starts, giving up five runs and eight hits in six innings and tying his career high for homers allowed with three.

Chien-Ming Wang, activated before the game after nearly a month on the disabled list, made his third career relief appearance and gave up a long homer deep over the Yankees bullpen to Ibanez. Wang threw 51 pitches, allowing two runs and six hits in three innings while lowering his ERA from 34.50 to 25.00.

Melky Cabrera is hoisted up by teammates after driving in the game winning run in the 9th

Melky Cabrera is hoisted up by teammates after driving in the game winning run in the 9th

Saturday’s game: May 23, 2009 (At Home)

Alex Rodriguez hit a tying homer off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning and Melky Cabrera capped the three-run rally with an RBI single, giving the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 15 games since returning from hip surgery, Rodriguez has 10 hits. Seven are home runs, however, and the Yankees are 12-3 during that span.

John Mayberry Jr. hit a three-run homer in his major league debut and Raul Ibanez also connected, helping the Phillies build a 4-2 lead for new starter J.A. Happ.

Lidge (0-2) came on in the ninth and immediately got in trouble. Johnny Damon drew a leadoff walk and stole second. After Mark Teixeira struck out, Rodriguez smacked a full-count pitch over the short porch in right.

“We went fastball away after throwing six sliders in a row,” Lidge said. “It was pretty impressive that he was able to do what he did. We didn’t expect him to hit it.”

 Robinson Cano followed with a single, stole second and scored without a play on Cabrera’s single to right-center. It was the third game-ending hit of the year for Cabrera, who has won back his center-field job after losing it last season.

The Yankees have won 10 of 11 and are making a habit of these walk-off victories. They had three straight against Minnesota last weekend, and capped this one the same way: pitcher A.J. Burnett pelted Cano and Cabrera with a pie in the face as they waited to do an on-field interview — even getting some whipped cream on radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman.

For Rodriguez, it was his sixth homer in eight games and No. 560 of his career, three shy of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for 11th place.

“We had the last punch,” Rodriguez said. “We’re at home and we feel very comfortable.”

Like Rodriguez, Yankees captain Derek Jeter homered for the second straight day. 

Lidge, who converted all 48 save chances in 2008 — including the postseason — during his first year in Philadelphia, has blown three of 11 opportunities this season. His ERA climbed to 9.16.

Jose Veras (3-1) got one out in the ninth for the win.

Phillies' Carlos Ruiz hits an eleventh-inning RBI-double to beat the Yankees 4-3

Phillies Carlos Ruiz hits an eleventh-inning RBI-double to beat the Yankees 4-3

Sunday’s game: May 24, 2009 (At Home)

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thought about hitting for Carlos Ruiz in the 11th inning, and ended up sending the catcher to the plate.

Ruiz hit a two-out RBI double and Philadelphia overcame another blown save by Brad Lidge to beat the Yankees 4-3.

 Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez each drove in a run for Philadelphia, and Ruiz neatly blocked the plate to stop Johnny Damon from scoring early.

Chase Utley got the winning rally started with a two-out walk against Brett Tomko (0-1). Utley stole second before Ruiz lined the ninth pitch of the at-bat down the third-base line. Clay Condrey (4-0), the Phillies’ sixth pitcher, worked two scoreless innings.

Melky Cabrera hit a tying single off Lidge in the ninth as the Yankees nearly rallied for their fifth walkoff win of a wildly successful 10-game homestand. The Yankees went 8-2 in its best stretch to date at its new ballpark, and have won 10 of 12 overall.

 “Today we didn’t get it done but that doesn’t take away from what we did on the homestand,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We can’t expect these guys to do it every time.”

Robinson Cano led off the ninth with an infield single against Lidge, who blew two save opportunities in the series. Pinch-runner Ramiro Pena then stole second before Cabrera hit a bouncer up the middle, just under the glove of diving shortstop Rollins.

Pena raced around to score the tying run without a play as Yankees fans prepared to celebrate another dramatic victory. Cabrera stole second with one out and advanced to third on pinch-hitter Nick Swisher’s grounder. But Lidge got Brett Gardner to bounce to first, sending the game to extra innings.

“I got a good pitch to hit,” Gardner said. “I just didn’t get around on it.”

Lidge’s ERA actually dropped to 9.15 after his fourth blown save in 12 chances this season. He gave up Alex Rodriguez’s tying homer and Cabrera’s winning single in the ninth inning of Philadelphia’s 5-4 loss Saturday.

The Yankees put its first two batters on in the 10th but Condrey got Mark Teixeira to ground into a double play. After Rodriguez was intentionally walked, Pena flied out.

Teixeira added to the stadium’s growing reputation as a launching pad with a broken-bat, solo shot off Cole Hamels in the sixth. Hamels slowly shook his head in disbelief as the drive carried over the wall in left despite Teixeira’s bat shattering, leaving him holding barely more than the handle.

“Most of the time when you hear a broken bat you think it’s a popup,” Hamels said.

It was Teixeira’s 13th of the season and No. 87 at the Yankees’ $1.5 billion stadium, setting the record for most homers in the first 23 games at a ballpark. Houston’s home, formerly known as Enron Field, set the previous mark in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Hamels allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings, outpitching CC Sabathia in a matchup of ace left-handers. Hamels is 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts this month.

Sabathia made his first start against Philadelphia since he was tagged for five runs over 3 2/3 innings in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 5-2 loss in Game 2 of the NL division series last season.

 The big lefty gave up three runs and nine hits over eight innings. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his last four starts and is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in that stretch. 

The Yankees were close to having back-to-back walk-off wins against the Phillies, but no cigar. Despite this tough loss, the Yankees were 8-2 on the homestand and now begin a 7 game roadtrip against Texas and Cleveand.

Melky Cabrera (#53) ties the game in the 9th, but the Yankees lose 4-3 in 11 innings

Melky Cabrera (#53) ties the game in the 9th, but the Yankees lose 4-3 in 11 innings

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The Bird Is The Word

A-Rod (right) is congratulated at the plate after his 2-run homer in the 1st inning

A-Rod (right) is congratulated at the plate after his 2-run homer in the 1st inning

Tuesday’s game: May 19, 2009 (At Home)

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira launched more long home runs, CC Sabathia dominated into the late innings and the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 Tuesday night for their seventh win in a row.

“I love this place,” Rodriguez said. “There are so many things here you can use to your advantage.”

Rodriguez homered for the fourth straight game, all in the Bronx, connecting for a two-run shot in the first inning. Each one of his no-doubters sailed deep to left. 

Ahead 2-1 in the seventh, the Yankees broke it open with a seven-run burst. Teixeira highlighted it with his fourth homer in four games.

Sabathia (4-3) again dominated the Orioles, allowing three singles in seven innings for his first home win in pinstripes. After Brian Roberts led off the game with a single to left, Sabathia did not permit an outfield hit. 

Sabathia threw a four-hit shutout at Baltimore on May 8, and this time outpitched rookie Brad Bergesen (1-2).

Nick Swisher homers in the 2nd inning, his 9th overall, but first at the Stadium

Nick Swisher homers in the 2nd inning, his 9th overall, but first at the Stadium

Wednesday’s game: May 20, 2009 (At Home)

Shedding their corporate image, the Yankees are reveling in this winning streak with a childlike enthusiasm.

“It’s been a great run for us,” Swisher said. “I think having fun creates winning.”

Swisher hit the first of three consecutive homers that sent Phil Hughes and the Yankees to their eighth straight victory Wednesday night, 11-4 over the Baltimore Orioles.

Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera also hit solo shots to right field in the second inning against starter Jeremy Guthrie (3-4) — all with two strikes.

Cano had three hits and three RBIs, and Mark Teixeira hit a run-scoring double off the center-field fence for the Yankees, on their longest winning streak since taking eight in a row last July. New York broke it open with a six-run eighth that included Jeter’s two-run double off the top of the right-field wall.

 Nearly four hours before the game, the Yankees held a Kangaroo Court, something veteran Andy Pettitte said the team hadn’t done since 1995, when Wade Boggs was the sitting judge.

Mariano Rivera was on the bench this time, with Jeter, Burnett and Johnny Damon on the jury.

In a fun ritual that’s common practice for many teams — though not the buttoned-up Yankees — players are razzed and fined by teammates for all sorts of small transgressions from arriving late to wearing ugly clothes. 

Hughes (2-2) struck out a career-high nine in five innings, limiting a Baltimore lineup that tagged him for eight runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings on May 9.

Alfredo Aceves followed Hughes with two scoreless innings, Phil Coke recorded two outs and Rivera got four for his eighth save in nine chances.

Robinson Cano hits a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning

Robinson Cano hits a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning

Thursday’s game: May 21, 2009 (At Home)

Joba Chamberlain didn’t last very long in his first start against the Orioles since Aubrey Huff mocked him with two exaggerated fist pumps while he rounded the bases following a three-run homer off the demonstrative right-hander on May 10. Chamberlain was knocked out in the first inning with a bruised right knee from Adam Jones’  one-out liner.

X-rays were negative and he is expected to make his next start.

“That’s a tough game because you’re asking an awful lot out of your bullpen,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We were somewhat fortunate.”

Robinson Cano drove in three runs, Alfredo Aceves led a solid effort by a depleted bullpen and the surging Yankees shrugged off Chamberlain’s injury in a 7-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Cano hit an RBI double in the Yankees four-run first and a two-run shot in the second. Melky Cabrera, subbing for a sore Johnny Damon, had a two-run double in the first and Hideki Matsui connected in the fifth to give Yankee Stadium the record for most homers in a ballpark’s first 20 games.

“It feels great,” said Mariano Rivera, who tossed a perfect ninth for his 57th save against Baltimore, his most against any team. “We’re playing together. We’re playing as a team.”

Rivera’s second save in two days and ninth in ten opportunities this season capped an admirable effort by the Yankees bullpen. Aceves (3-0) followed Chamberlain with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Jonathan Albaladejo allowed four runs and five hits over 2 1/3 innings but Jose Veras got three outs to get the ball to Rivera.

Aceves hasn’t allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings over his last five appearances since May 13.

Derek Jeter, Cano, and Mark Teixeira opened the bottom half of the first with consecutive doubles off Adam Eaton (2-5) to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Cabrera came up with his big hit after Eaton walked Nick Swisher with two outs.

Eaton allowed seven runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 13.03 ERA in his last two starts, leaving his spot in the rotation in jeopardy.

The Yankees have now won nine in a row, including all seven games on the homestand so far. They last won nine in a row June 5-14, 2007.

Interleague play begins with the Phillies coming in for a 3-game series to close out the homestand.

Joba Chamberlain is removed in the 1st inning after being hit on the knee by a line drive

Joba Chamberlain is removed in the 1st inning after being hit on the knee by a line drive

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