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The Yankees have missed something important the last two weeks: offense.  It finally came through in a big way.  The bombers had their first 10 hit game since a 15-0 beat down of the NY Mets on June 14 – a stretch of 8 games.

On Wednesday night in Atlanta, it didn’t look like they were going to muster much offense.  Through 5 innings, the team didn’t even have a base runner.  Then the Yankees got the spark they needed.  In the top of the sixth inning, Brett Gardner, aka the fastest kid alive, was thrown out at first after taking a big lead.  It initially looked like he got back in time, and replays confirmed it.  Skipper Joe Girardi went out to speak the ump and was tossed.  That act seemed to fire up the team.

Francisco Cervelli smacked a homer to put the Yankees on the board, and they barely looked back.  After Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira loaded the bases, Alex Rodriguez got a hit in a clutch situation for the first time in what feels like 3 months, scoring Jeter and Damon giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

They never gave up the lead after that and held off a Braves rally to win the game 8-4 and give Joba Chamberlain his 4th win of the season.

Johnny Damon finished 3-5 and scored two runs, Tex finished 2-4 with a run scored and a RBI and Nick Swisher and Cervelli smacked homers for the Yankees.  The team finishes its three-game series in Atlanta Thursday night.  It will be the last time these two teams face each other in the regular season for another 3 years.

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We’ll call it the Home Run Derby series for three reasons.  First, the Rangers lead the American League in home runs with 83 and the Yankees are second at 80.  Second, when the Philadelphia Phillies came into town two weekends ago, the two teams combined for 12 total homers – or an average of four per game.  Third, the game is being held at Yankee Stadium on the moon where there is less gravity.

Ok, I lied about the moon part (obviously) but there certainly does seem to be a lack of gravity, due to the 84 homers hit in the first 23 games.  Even Joba Chamberlain defies gravity.

Joba Chamberlain dives to make a play

Joba Chamberlain gets some air while diving for a bunt. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Since taking 2 of 3 from Texas in Arlington just last week, the Yankees had a day off and took 3 of 4 from Cleveland to finish up a road trip that saw them win 5 of 7.  Not to be outdone, the Rangers took on Oakland at home and also took 3 of 4.

Both teams lead their respective divisions as well.  Texas (30-20) has a 4.5 game lead over the LA Angels.  The Yankees (30-21) hold a 1 game lead over Boston.

Both the Yankees and the Rangers are on fire- the Rangers were an AL-Best 20-9 in May.  After losing 5 straight in the beginning of May, the Yankees were an MLB-best 15-4 after May 13, including a 10 game win streak.

Plus, the next week or so is going to impact the AL standings quite drastically.  The Yankees face the Al West leading Texas, divisional foe Tampa Bay and divisional foe Boston.  Boston faces the AL Central leading Detroit, AL West leading Texas and AL East leading Yankees.  Texas faces the Yankees, Boston and Toronto.

The next 9-10 games for those several clubs are going to impact the standings in all three divisions.

The Rangers might be without slugger Josh Hamilton who had an MRI on Monday and is meeting with a doctor today.  As of posting time, there was no new news on his status.  Ian Kinsler has been hot for the Rangers this season and will look to bolster his Al All-Star credentials in the huge media market of NY.

The Yankees hottest two players in May were Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.  Tex was easily the player of the month for the Yankees, hitting .330 with 13 homers and 34 ribbies.  His only blemish during an outstanding month was his 24 strikeouts.  After batting .200 in April, Teixeira was able to raise his average to .282 because of May.

Oh, and he is in the middle of a 14 game hitting streak.

The Captain is also in the midst of a hitting streak, with 15 straight games.  After a slow start to the month, Jeets has hit .396 during his hitting streak and has raised his BA to a team leading .311.

Pitching Matchups:

Tuesday: RHP A.J. Burnett (3-2, 4.78) vs. RHP Vicente Padilla (3-2, 4.71), 7:05 p.m., YES

Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte (5-1, 4.10) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (4-0, 3.91), 7:05 p.m., YES

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia (5-3, 3.46) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 4.35), 1:05 p.m., YES

Finally, unless you have been living under a rock for the last three weeks, you know that the Yankees have been perfect their last 18 games – not allowing a single error in those games.  That is a new Major League Record.

The Yankees have won 12 of their last 15 and currently sit a half game behind Boston for first in the AL East.  The Indians sit at the bottom of the AL Central but just completed a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay, the American League defending champs.

The last time these two teams met, it was April 16-19, the first series ever played at the New Yankee Stadium.  The teams alternated wins, with the Indians capturing the first and third, while the Bronx Bombers took the second and fourth games.  You might remember the third game was a 22-4 beat down by Cleveland.

This time, the series shifts to Cleveland’s Jacobs Field for a four game set – the last time these two teams are scheduled to face each other all season.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Tonight @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, WCBS 880
LHP Andy Pettitte (4-1, 4.30 ERA) vs. LHP Cliff Lee (2-5, 3.04 ERA)

Game 2: Tomorrow @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, WCBS 880
LHP CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.42 ERA) vs. RHP Fausto Carmona (2-4, 6.42 ERA)

Game 3: Sunday @ 12:40 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, TBS, WCBS 880
RHP Phil Hughes (3-2, 5.16 ERA) vs. RHP Carl Pavano (4-4, 6.10 ERA)

Game 4: Monday @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, ESPN, WCBS 880
RHP Joba Chamberlain (2-1 3.70) vs. Jeremy Sowers (1-2, 7.71)

Friday marks the return of Jorge Posada from the DL.  Posada was hitting well (.312, 5 HR and 20 RBI) for the Yankees before he took 22 games off because of a strained hammy.  Posada will most likely not be behind the plate every game this series.

Mariano Rivera has been well rested this week.  While taking 2 of 3 from the AL West leading Texas Rangers, the Yankees never needed Mo.   He’ll most likely make an appearance Friday night, if not just by statistical chance the score will be close enough.

Saturday will be CC Sabathia‘s first time pitching in Cleveland since he was traded to Milwaukee last summer.  Sabathia got off to a rough start with the Yankees, but has won three of his last four starts, pitching very well in all four.

Finally, the Yankees come into the game with some streaks on the line.  Both Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira come in with hitting streaks, Jeets with an 11-game and Tex with a 10-game.  Its been 13 games and 51 at bats since Robinson Cano has struck out.  The entire team has been error-free for the last 14 games, a franchise record.

UPDATE 11:13 PM 5/29/09 – Apparently the Indians now play at Progressive Field, renamed from Jacob’s Field.  Apparently, its been called Progressive Field since before last season.  Where was I?

Despite reports that CC Sabathia asked to speak to the Yankees this weekend, ESPN is reporting that CC Sabathia wants to be a Dodger.  Dodger’s GM Ned Colleti told ESPN’s Jayson Stark on Monday that he ran into Sabathia on Sunday night in a hotel lobby in Las Vegas and the free-agent pitcher told him then about his desire to play for the Dodgers.

Although the Dodgers have come out publicly about not spending a lot of money this off-season, Colleti did not rule out making a run for Sabathia.  “It’s a possibility,” Colletti said Monday. “It’s an interesting dynamic with anybody who is long-term at a salary that’s higher than most. When you’re talking about a player who is long-term, it’s going to change the dynamic of your team in some way.”

Sabathia and his agent met with the Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi on Sunday night for approximately 2 1/2 hours.  The Yankees left the meeting feeling positive that Sabathia wants to pay for the Yankees.

After this report, it seems to me that Sabathia is playing the field at this point.  I am getting the impression that he wants the money the Yankees are offering, he just wants it offered by either of the LA teams so he can stay near the home he is currently building in Southern Cali.

This morning PeteAbe took the time to rank his top 20 most important individuals in the Yankees organization.

I’m going to copy/paste the list here and offer my take in italics.

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1. Joba Chamberlain: The Yankees will need stars once Those With Rings leave the scene and Chamberlain is the best candidate in that he’s a dominating player, has a personality and the fans love him. The Yankees very badly need him to be great as they continue their transition.

He’s the biggest star draw for the Yankees since A-Rod came into town. Plus my brother has a man-crush on him. He’s definitely #1.

2. Hal Steinbrenner: While his verbose brother grabs headlines for no good reason, Hal has learned every aspect of the organization in the last 20 months, developed working relationships with all the right people and now he’s officially the owner. He’ll be 39 in December and if his family keeps the team, Hal could be The Boss for the next 30 or 40 years

3. Alex Rodriguez: Like him or not, he’s probably going to be around for a long time. Despite his great talent and work ethic, A-Rod has yet to win the fans over and won’t unless he plays a role in winning a championship. Will the next nine years be about chasing Barry Bonds or being part of a winner? Either way, he’s front and center.

4. Derek Jeter: He’s still the face of the franchise and enjoys widespread popularity despite those anxious to point out what he doesn’t do well. How his next contract plays out will be a huge story. But it’s hard to imagine Jeter in another uniform or the Yankees allowing that to happen.

5. Mariano Rivera: He was the MVP of the dynasty and is unquestionably the best player ever at his position. He’ll be 39 on Saturday and nothing lasts forever. But in a world of few sure things, he remains one.

6. Brian Cashman: His new three-year deal and tight relationship with Hal Steinbrenner means that the roster, for better or worse, will be his creation through 2011. Cashman is smart enough not to have allowed a replacement to emerge.

7. Chien-Ming Wang: Young, inexpensive and productive starters are the single most valuable commodity in baseball and Wang is the only one the Yankees have. He is 46-15 over the last three seasons.

Some don’t call him an ace. Some do, including me. The injury to him was devastating enough that the Yankees struggled mightily afterwards and someone had to take over the reins of the rotation. (who knew it’d be Mussina?)

8. Joe Girardi: Injuries soured his first season, making his worthiness for the job difficult to judge. Girardi showed he could handle a bullpen. But can he handle New York? Reports of player unrest aren’t a good sign. Managers come and go, which is why he isn’t higher.

All of the running he had the players do in spring training helped some, and did not help others. Now than some players have bought into his fitness regiment (Giambi did last year, and Cano is reportedly thinner and toned), he needs to instill the work ethic that some players apparently don’t have. If he can get them to follow the way, then he’ll move up the list.

9. Robinson Cano: His collapse in 2008 led directly to the team sitting out the postseason. Cano is 26, signed to a long-term deal and could be a cornerstone player if he commits himself. He is said to be readying for a big 2009 by adopting a new workout regimen.

10. Jorge Posada: Now 37, the heart-and-soul catcher is at a career crossroads as he recovers from extensive shoulder surgery. Will he be close to the player he was in 2007 (.338/.426/.543) ever again?

11. Xavier Nady: He murdered the ball for a few weeks after being obtained from the Pirates then finished at .268 for the Yanks, albeit with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 228 at-bats. They need a No. 3 hitter, could he be it? He’ll be a free agent after 2008, which should provide motivation.

12. Andrew Brackman: He’s 6-foot-10, 270 pounds and can throw a fastball close to 100 mph. The Yankees spent $4.55 million to sign Brackman in 2007 and hope he’ll overcome elbow surgery to become an ace.

13. Jesus Montero: Only 19 (as of today), he hit .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBI for Single-A Charleston in 2008. Montero could be the best offensive player the team has developed since Jeter, only with light-tower power.

I’d have put him at #10, before Posada. He is their future star. He could be in the bigs as early as September 2009, maybe earlier?

14. Randy Levine: The team president since 2000, his loyalty to the Steinbrenners has given him great power. But he is heavily invested in Girardi’s success as many believe he led the charge to run Joe Torre out of town.

15. Hank Steinbrenner: George Steinbrenner’s oldest son seems content to let his brother run the show. But he is the team co-chairman and has power to wield if he wants to.

16. Phil Hughes: Will he be a key starter for a championship contender or just another guy? The former first-round pick has seen his star fall. But he’s still only 22.

I have mixed feelings on this one. Just like Hughes gives us mixed results. We’ve seen his “near-no-hitter” last year against Texas and times when he has just collapsed and again saw mixed results in the AFL. I am not ready to give up on Hughes yet, he’s only 22 as PeteAbe says and many of the top pitchers today (Schilling, Santana for starters) did not blossom until past the age of 24.

17. Austin Jackson: A star in Class AA ball, Jackson has a chance to be their center fielder for a decade. His baseball skills still lag behind his athletic ability but are catching up fast.

18. Johnny Damon: The coming season figures to be his last in pinstripes. But Damon can still be one of the most dynamic and productive leadoff hitters in the game. He’s also one of the few players on the team with an actual personality.

19. Damon Oppenheimer/Mark Newman: As the Yankees focus on development, the performance of their scouting director and farm director becomes more crucial than ever.

20. Dave Eiland: The Yankees decided he would be the pitching coach before they named Girardi as manager. If another managerial change is made, he’ll likely survive. He could be their Leo Mazzone.

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There you have it…the list. Your thoughts?

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