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…had the Yankees had such a winning streak after the All Star break. It became win number eight yesterday afternoon against a struggling Boston Red Sox team. Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano combined to provide the weapons the Yankees needed to defeat the Sox for the second straight day.

Cano continued his torrid pace, now hitting .514 after the break, with his third home run in eight games, and three ribbies on the day. (Memo to Yankee brass: Cano is untouchable, do not even think of trading him.)

The Rays, winner of a close game in Kansas City, remain 3 games ahead of the Yankees. The Yankees are one game behind the Sox in the win column.

Pettitte pitched 6 strong innings, allowing only one ER and struck out seven. Yankees starters since the All Star break have combined for 6-0, 1.64 ERA.

Two of the Yankees’ newly acquired players, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte both played. Nady didn’t register a hit but scored a run. Marte mowed down David Ortiz on four pitches in his only pitching appearance.

On a side note, Manny Ramirez, who sat out two games with a “sore knee” had a MRI and the results proved that nothing was wrong. It was just Manny being Manny, a dumb primadonna. He went 0-4. At least the Yankee hitters don’t sit down with whiny excuses like Manny does.

Yankees wrap up this series at 8:05pm with Sir Sidney Ponson pitching vs. Jon Lester. On paper, Lester has the advantage, but in reality, the Yankees are the ones with the advantage and the momentum.

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I like this piece by Cliff Corcoran at Bronx Banter about the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade yesterday.

Among the tidbits,

The thing is, the Yankees didn’t really give up anyone they couldn’t afford to lose. The four minor leaguers headed to Pittsburgh are pitchers Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Coke, and George Kontos, and outfielder Jose Tabata.

Actually, it was reported later today that Coke and Kontos were not part of the deal, instead the Pirates got Dan McCutchen and Jeff Karstens. I still think the Yankees got a good deal. Although McCutchen and Karstens are better than Coke and Kontos, they both are older players (mid-late 20s).

Here is the universe according to Joba: at the tender young age of 22 the kid pitches at Fenway Park and pitches a gem, outdueling Red Sox ace, Josh Beckett (who, by the way, was 3-0 against the Yankees this season). In 7 innings Joba allowed no runs on three hits (all singles) and a walk, while striking out nine. Joba also retired the last 10 batters he faced. He threw 103 pitches on the night, 69 of them for strikes. He’s pitched well as a starter, but this was by far his best performance. Especially in such a heated atmosphere. I believe this boy thrives on pressure. Sheer pressure.  Take that Hughes and Kennedy, learn something from your teammate.

Kyle Farnsworth came in for the 8th and ran into a bit of trouble. He allowed a leadoff single to Jed Lowrie, got Jason Varitek to pop out, and then allowed an infield single to Coco Crisp, and that would be all. Mariano came into the game, and was his dominant self. If he doesn’t win the Cy Young this year, or even the MVP, I consider this a travesty. Mo’s line last night:  In 1.2 innings pitched Mo allowed no runs on one hit, while striking out three and walking none. He is now 26-for-26 in save opportunities.

The Yanks scored only one run. Against Beckett in the third inning, nobody on and two out, then Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez both singled, setting up 1st and 3rd with two out for Jason Giambi. Giambi then fought off and 0-1 pitch and punched it through the vacated hole at shortstop (courtesy of the famous Giambi shift) and the Yanks had their lead.

The win was the Yanks seventh in a row, and moves the Yanks to a season-high 12 games over .500 with a 57-45 record. Now the Yanks are heavily breathing down the Sox’s back, only 2 games behind.

Today it’s Pettitte on the mound. I’ll bet the farm that Manny Ramirez and his “sore knee” will be back in the line up. Anyone want to guess why Ramirez didn’t play yesterday? Yeah, me too.

I winced as I watched the July 5 game against the Red Sox where Rivera had a 2-0 game become a 2-1 game with two HBP and a run scored on two hits. Luckily Rivera got two strikeouts sandwiched between a fly out to preserve the win and earn his 23rd save of the year.

Later that night my brother texted me saying that Rivera always seems to blow up against the Red Sox. I at first agreed. It seems like every time Rivera pitches against the Red Sox, he implodes. I pitched a guest blog idea to Joseph P at River Ave. Blues about this very topic. Then I got to work crunching the numbers on Rivera vs. the Red Sox since 2004.

The Yankees and Red Sox have played each other 91 times (including this season and the 2004 playoff series) since the beginning of 2004. The Yankees have the very slim lead with 46 victories in head to head matchups. Of these 91 games, Rivera has made an appearance in 44 of these games (48%). He has combined for a 3-4 W-L record along with 21 saves against the Red Sox over the last 5 years.

After looking at the numbers, my brother was partially correct. Rivera has allowed some come from behind victories or allowed the Red Sox to score runs, further widening the margin the Yankees needed to score to win or tie a game.

However, Rivera has been the dominant closer against the Red Sox that he is against the rest of the league. His 21 saves over the last five years against the Yankees’ biggest rivals speaks volumes. He has pitched 48.1 innings (including this season) against the Sox in this span, allowing 44 hits, 22 runs scored, (18 ER) and 18 walks while registering 41 strikeouts. He has also allowed 3 home runs against him.

It’s human nature to remember the negative and forget the positive. That’s what may be happening here. I remember the bad games Rivera pitched and forget the good ones. July 24, 2004 is one good example. Rivera pitched .2 of an inning, allowed a 3-run home run to Bill Mueller for the loss. Later that season in the ALCS, baseball pundits will be quick to state that Rivera coughed up game 4 (and later in game 5), allowing Mueller to hit the game tying single. In game 5 of the ALCS, Rivera allowed Varitek to hit a sac fly to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th.

Another memorable bad game was to allow Jason Varitek to hit a game-tying home run on April 5, 2005. Luckily Jeter hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to give Rivera the win. There have been games where the Yankees were leading by a couple of runs and the Sox were able to get on board against Rivera. One example was July 17 of 2005 where Rivera allowed a Varitek (again) RBI single to cut the Yankees lead to two runs. On September 11, 2005, Rivera was pitching in a 1-0 game where he walked David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. He was able to register the final three outs to preserve his 37th save of that year.

Rivera wasn’t so dominant either on August 20 of 2006 when he earned an extra inning win over the Sox. In a game where he allowed two hits and two walks, he escaped thanks to home runs by Giambi and Posada to give the Yankees a 8-5 victory.

The biggest flop, in my opinion happened last year on April 20. The Yankees were leading 6-3, which looked like a sure victory. Rivera entered the game and pitched only .2 of a inning, giving up a RBI single, a 2-RBI triple, and another RBI single to give the lead and the game to the Red Sox, 7-6.

For all of his miscues against the Red Sox, and of all the bad outings we remember the most, Rivera remains to be the most consistent closer (take that, Papelbon) in the game today. His numbers this season speak for itself, and so do his numbers against the Red Sox over the last five years.

So, as the Yankees and Red Sox prepare for a showdown this coming weekend, we would be best reminded that no matter what happens, you can count on Rivera.

The House that Ruth Built doesn’t want to go out in a whimper.

More than a week removed after an All Star Game for the ages, the Yankees won their sixth straight, and 10th straight at home.

A victory today, 5-1 over the Twins gave the Yankees three consecutive series sweeps at home. I can’t remember the last time that happened. 1998?

Moose continued his career resurgence, winning his 13th of the year going eight (yes, read it again) innings, allowing 6 hits and striking out seven. His ERA is a respectable 3.26 at this point. I guess Moose is out to make a strong statement to the Yankee brass about next year’s spot on the rotation.

Thanks to doubles by Jeter and a 2-RBI double by A-Rod, a 2-RBI double by rookie Justin Christian, that was all the offense the Yankees needed in nearly shutting out the Twins.

I still don’t get Girardi sometimes. Why not let Moose finish the game? LaTroy Hawkins came in and promptly blew up, allowing a 2-out RBI to Mike Lamb. C’mon Hawkins! Lamb’s hitting .225 on the season before you let him hit that single. As a result, the Yankees had to resort to the Great Rivera to get the final out and his 25th save in 25 chances.

Robinson Cano continued his traditional sizzing July, going .500 in the game along with one run scored. Best bud Melky Cabrera had a not-too-bad day also, going 2 for 3 to raise his average to .248.

The Yankees have an off day tomorrow riding a six-game streak into Beantown. Boston, in the meantime, plays at 4:40pm today and hopefully comes limping into Fenway. The pitching match-up for this weekend’s series on paper favors the Red Sox on Friday and Sunday (Chamberlain vs. Beckett on Friday; Pettitte vs. Wakefield on Saturday; Ponson vs. Lester on Sunday), but knowing how well the Yankees are playing now just proves to us that they are capable of sweeping the Sox and going for nine straight come Monday.

Tomorrow, keep an eye out for a story I wrote on Mariano Rivera vs. the Red Sox.

Sizzling Hot Yankee of the Day: Mike Mussina, 8 IP, 6 hits, 0 runs 0 walks, 7 strikeouts

Honorable Mention: Justin Christian, 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs

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