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It started May 7 and doesn’t end for at least three weeks.  In fact, one could argue that it doesn’t even end for nearly 5 weeks.  For the first 20 games of this stretch, which started this weekend, the Yankees began what is looking like the toughest part of their schedule all season – from May 7 to May 27.

To start off, the Yankees will have to play 20 games during those 21 days, with the only day off coming on Monday May 24.  The worst part, however, is the opposition they are scheduled to face.  Boston, Detroit, Minnesota, Boston, Tampa Bay, NY Mets and Minnesota – all of which having winning records or are the Boston Red Sox.

May 7-9 @ Boston – The Yankees routed the first two games of the series 10-3 and 14-3, before being routed themselves in the Sunday night game, 9-3.  The Yankees are 4-2 against Boston this season in the 6 games they’ve played, all at Fenway Park.

May 10-13 @ Detroit – The Yankees lost the first game of the series, 5-4 on a night that long-time Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell was memorialized after succumbing to cancer last week.  The Yankees send troubled pitcher Javier Vasquez to the mound Tuesday night, high-flying youngster Phil Hughes to the mound on Wednesday night and ace CC Sabathia on Thursday night.  Vasquez skipped his last scheduled start (Friday in Boston) to get some bullpen work in and calm some nerves.  Yankee fans have been pretty hard on him this season for his poor play.  Hughes and Sabathia have been dominating this season, going 4-0 and 4-1 respectively.  Taking the next three in a row would be nice and is very possible, but I would be content with the Bombers leaving Detroit after going 2-2 against the Tigers.  Either way, they should have some momentum built up heading into the weekend series with Minnesota.

May 14-16 vs Minnesota – The Twins sit atop the AL Central at 21-11 and appear to be the third best team in the majors after the Rays and Yankees.  They are tough offensively and are much stronger than the team that the Yankees dominated last season.  This will be a tough series for the Bombers, especially considering the scheduled pitchers are AJ Burnett, who’s always volatile, Andy Pettitte, who’s coming off arm stiffness, and Vasquez, who will be hearing some loud boos if he doesn’t play excellent.

At this point the Yankees will have played 10 straight days – meaning that the Bombers would have most likely scheduled a day off for aging infielders Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in order to rest them up for the next 10 games.

May 17-18 vs Boston – Boston maybe struggling this season with a 17-16 record as of Monday May 10, but it isn’t because of their hitting like most everyone thought it would be – it’s because of their pitching.  Surprisingly, the Sox are the fourth highest-scoring team in baseball this season.  The problem is they happen to have allowed the third most runs this season too, for a minus 11 run differential.  Still any series against the Sox is tough.

May 19-20 vs Tampa Bay – No doubt this is the strongest team in baseball this season and they are accomplishing it with much less talent then teams like the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies have.  Fortunately, the Yankees have had this team’s number lately, having beaten them 2 out of 3 this season and 9 of 13 dating back to the mid-point of last season.

May 21-23 @ NY Mets – The Mets have had their ups and downs this season but have been mostly up the last couple of weeks.  Games between these two can hardly be called home or away games since the two team’s stadiums sit less than 20 miles apart.

May 24 – That one off-day…But can it really be called an off-day when you have to travel to Minnesota?

May 25-27 @ Minnesota – Previewing a series almost 3 weeks away is pointless.  Just imagine I copied and pasted the description from their previous series in this place.

However, it doesn’t stop here.  Without another day off, the Yankees will face off at home against the Cleveland Indians for a 4 game Memorial Day Weekend series (May 28-31), division rival Baltimore for three games (June 1-3), and finally wrapping it up in Toronto from June 4-6.

In case you lost count, that’s 30 games in 32 days, with 23 of those 30 games coming against teams with winning records.

Whew.

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In an interesting day for former Yankees, oft-injured pitcher Carl Pavano was traded from Cleveland to Minnesota and 1B/DH Jason Giambi was released by Oakland – the team he played with before joining the Yankees after the 2000 season.

ESPN’s headline called Minnesota’s move something that would “bolster their rotation.”  I dunno where they come off thinking Carl Pavano can bolster a lopsided table, much less a rotation.

Pavano is 9-8 this season for a crappy Cleveland team with bad defense and little hitting (except of course for their 22-4 b-slap of the Yankees in April…).  Still Pavano did not earn the nickname “American Idle” for nothing.  Let’s face it – the man owes the Yankees like $38 Million of the $40 Mil they paid him over the last four years.

Good luck to Minnesota – they’re going to need it.

Giambi was playing poorly for the A’s this season, hitting .193 before going on the DL July 20 with a strained right quad.  Oakland had hoped to use Giambi as a DH this season, providing the team with a higher slugging percentage.  Instead, Giambi started having the worst season of his career.

Giambi has degraded as a player ever since the 2003 season when he was rumored to have been a steroid user.  He later apologiezed to all fans for using performance enhancing drugs and earned respect back from Yankee fans.  Faced with the prospect of having to pay him $22 million if they kept him, the Yankees chose to buy out the last year of his contract for $5 million in the offseason.

No word yet on what Giambi’s plans will be.

The Joba-to-the-bullpen argument can quiet down for now.

Jobamania went into the eighth inning tonight in Joba Chamberlain’s finest pitching performance in pinstripes as he went 8 innings, allowing 4 hits, two runs (both earned), while walking two and striking out five on a pitch count of 106 (66 for strikes). Chamberlain got into some trouble in the bottom frame of the fourth when the bases were loaded. Joba struck out Mark DeRosa looking to escape the jam. In the fifth, Joba made a web gem catch of a bunt loop that he dived for and fired to second base to complete the double play. After that play, Joba did his trademark fist pump.

Mariano Rivera came in the ninth and mowed down the hitters in order, getting two ground outs and a fly out for his 11th save.

Much of the Yankees offense came in the seventh inning, a typical night for the Yankees offense as they continue to abuse opposing teams’ bullpens. The Yankees have been scoring in droves from the 7th inning and beyond all season, which is a good indicator that the team does not let up easily.

In the seventh inning, Melky Cabrera — back from the bench after a shoulder injury — grounded out and Hideki Matsui came in for Angel Berroa (more on that later) and walked. Ramiro Pena pinch ran for Matsui and then Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter both walked to load the bases. Nick Swisher hit a deep 2-RBI double off the wall in left field. Teixeira was intentionally walked, then A-Rod singled infield to bring home two more runs to give the Yankees the 5-1 lead they would need the rest of the night.

The other Yankee run came in the third inning on a Nick Swisher infield single (turned into a double play).

The Yankees set a modern record with their 18th straight errorless game, breaking the mark set by the 2006 Boston Red Sox.

A few notes about tonight’s game, which I saw on TV…

Derek Jeter extended his hit streak with 15 games, as did Mark Teixeira with 14 games.

Angel Berroa was playing third base, but the 68-year old player made a good defensive play in the bottom of the third to grab a bouncing single to throw out Garko. Thankfully, Berroa was lifted in the seventh for Matsui.

The Yankees now have won six of their last seven series, taking this one from the Indians, 3-1. They are now 17-6 since the return of A-Rod.

The Yankees head back home to the Stadium to play host to the Texas Rangers. Tomorrow night, AJ Burnett takes the mound at 7:05pm.

Phil Hughes started for the Yankees today and started off very well.

Hughes ran into some trouble in the third. Jhonny Peralta lined the first pitch he saw for a two-run single to right. Mark DeRosa hit a sac fly and the Tribe were up 3-0 after three.

Hughes then had a quick fourth and may have had a quick fifth too if not for a Brett Gardner miscue in center. Cabrera led off with a line drive to center, but instead of going back on the ball Gardner broke in and couldn’t recover in time and the ball went over his head for a double. He would later score on a Shin-Soo Choo sac fly.

The results weren’t there and once again Hughes threw too many pitches, but his stuff was very good and he threw a lot of strikes. His fastball was sitting at 92-94 and his slider and curve ball were very good too, and he threw 95 pitches on the day, 66 for strikes.

Chien-Ming Wang pitched three scoreless innings in relief and had by far his best sinker of the season. Not only did it have great movement by the velocity was back at 93-94 mph. He also had a very good slider today. In three innings he allowed no runs on three hits, walked one and struck out three. He threw 42 pitches, 28 for strikes.

Carl Pavano kept the Yankees bats quiet. He kept them off the scoreboard completely until the top of the sixth when with two outs, Johnny Damon singled, and Mark Teixeira followed with a two-run homer, his 16th of the year. It should have been a three-run homer, but the umps blew a call against Derek Jeter.

Indians pitcher Matt Herges allowed a two-run double to Teixeira deep off the wall in left-center and the game was tied. Teixeira drove in all four Yankee runs today and now has 44 RBI on the season.

With the score still tied in the ninth the Yankees had a golden opportunity to take the lead. Hideki Matsui led off with a walk and Ramiro Pena pinch ran for him. Nick Swisher then followed with a nice sac bunt and Brett Gardner reached on an infield single and the Yanks were set up, runners on first and third with one out for Jorge Posada. This was where the Yankees let the game slip away.

The obvious move was to have Brett Gardner steal second to keep the Yankees out of the double play. But Gardner never moved and inch and Posada eventually grounded into an inning ending double play. Gardner admitted after the game he didn’t follow the steal signal. He said he wasn’t ready. Duuuude, you gotta be ready ALL the time!

Coke came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff batter. How can you walk a .171 hitter? Asdrubal Cabrera then laid down a sac bunt and the winning run was on second base. David Robertson then came out of the pen and he walked Ben Francisco, then fell behind with Jhonny Peralta 3-1. Peralta then lined a 3-1 fastball down the line scoring the winning run.

On the positive side, the Yankees did not commit an error for the 17th straight game tying them with the 2006 Red Sox for the MLB record. The Yankees will look to make it three of four from Cleveland tonight. Joba Chamberlain will start for the Yankees.

The Yankees scored two runs in the second and one in the third and managed to squeak out a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians and earn first place in the AL East for the first time since the end of the 2006 season.

After loading the bases in the first inning, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada struck out to end the inning, seemingly leaving the Bombers hungry for runs in the second.

Derek Jeter hit a single to left, scoring Nick Swisher for the first run of the game.  Johnny Damon followed up with a single, loading the bases for Mark Teixeira.  Teix grounded out to first, but Brett Gardner scored from third.  Alex Rodriguez ended the inning with a strikeout, leaving two men on base.

The third and final run for the Yankees came in the next inning on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Nick Swisher, scoring Robinson Cano.

Andy Pettitte (5-1) earned his 220th career victory, pitching 5 innings, allowing six hits and one earned run.  His control seemed to be off all evening.  Pettitte only managed one strikeout and walked six throughout the game.  He constantly got himself into jams, but always managed to get out of them.

In the bottom of the sixth, Pettite allowed two runners to get on base with no outs.  Skipper Joe Girardi decided he had seen enough and pulled Pettitte.  After Alfredo Aceves loaded the bases, he managed to get out of the inning only allowing one run on a sacrifice fly.  The run was counted to Pettitte since he was responsible for the runner.

We have to give Pettitte a lot of credit tonight for a couple of reasons.  First, he is 5-1 for the first time since 1997, a year in which he went 18-7 with a career-low 2.88 ERA.  Also, history was made tonight as Pettitte and Rivera teamed up for a win-save combination record – it was the 58 time that they have combined for a win and a save.  It broke a record held by Bob Welsh and Denis Eckersley.

The Yankees also extended their franchise record error-less streak to 15 games; Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 12 games and Mark Teixeira extended his to 11 games.  It was unlucky 13 for Robinson Cano, who had gone his last 13 games without a strikeout before tonight’s game.

Jorge Posada returned to the line-up for the first time since May 4th and was 2-3 at the plate.  Unfortunately, his worst at bat was a strikeout in the first with the bases loaded.  His other two hits came with no one in scoring position.  Posada looked comfortable at the plate and behind the plate.  “I did a lot of work to get back and my body feels real good,” Posada said after the game.

CC Sabathia (4-3) pitches Saturday in Cleveland for the first time since being traded last summer to Milwaukee.

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