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Phil Hughes pitches to the Athletics in a dominant start on Wednesday night. (AP photo by Ben Margot)

Phil Hughes took an impressive no-hit try into the eighth inning last night, losing it when Eric Chavez bounced a hard comebacker off the pitcher’s forearm and chest in the New York Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Hughes (2-0) struck out a career-high 10 in the Yankees’ sixth straight win, with his parents in the stands to see it after driving up from Orange County for his outing. Hughes was in complete control until Chavez opened the eighth with that one-hopper back to the mound.

This was the second near-miss for the 23-year old future star. Hughes had a no-hitter through 6.1 innings in 2007 against Texas.

Hughes gave up only one hit in 7.1 innings and walked two.

Two batters after Chavez got aboard, Hughes walked Gabe Gross and was done. He was charged with Oakland’s lone run in the standout 101-pitch performance after pinch-hitter Jake Fox had an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain.

Mariano Rivera finished the three-hitter for his sixth save in as many chances.

Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back triples to start the fourth off A’s starter Ben Sheets. Posada followed Cano’s hit with an RBI groundout. Brett Gardner’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth provided an insurance run.

With the win last night, the Yankees matched the 1926 franchise record by winning its first five series of the season.

One very interesting tidbit that reflects the Yankees’ pitching dominance and defensive approach in each game is that they have held opponents to three or fewer runs in each game during their winning streak. With the exception of Javy Vazquez, the other four starters are a combined 8-0.

CC Sabathia takes the mound this afternoon going for the sweep of the A’s in front of the hometown crowd where he grew up. First pitch is for 3:35 p.m.

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Continuing on with season previews, I’m going to tackle the AL West all in one post.

2009 Standings:

1.) LA Angels 97-65 (Swept Boston in ALDS; Lost ALCS to Yankees)

2.) Texas Rangers 87-75

3.) Seattle Mariners 85-77

4.) Oakland A’s 75-87

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Key Losses: John Lakey-P (free agent); Chone Figgins-2B (free agent); Vladamir Guerrero-OF/DH (free agent);

Key Additions: Hideki Matsui-DH (free agent);

The Angels have a great coach in Mike Scioscia and have been a traditional powerhouse for most of the last decade, but this season appears to be the first the team fails to make the postseason in quite some time.  The team lost three “A-Quality” players and added one “B” player.   Their lineup will score runs but mostly only to try to keep up with the runs their pitching staff will allow.  Outside of Ace Jered Weaver, who has the potential to be a 20-game winner, and Brian Fuentes who was one of the top three closers in the game last season, the pitching staff is underwhelming.

The team let Ace John Lackey leave for the Red Sox, leadoff man Chone Figgins go to the Mariners and slugger Vladimir Guerrero go to the Rangers and made virtually no effort to replace them.  Hideki Matsui is a great guy and a clutch hitter, but I still think I take Guerrero.  Even if the Angels are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, they won’t make it past the divisional series.

2010 Prediction: 87-75, 3rd AL West

Seattle Mariners:

Key Additions: Chone Figgins-2B (free agent);Cliff Lee-P (trade); Milton Bradley-OF;

This team looks very strong, especially with the additions of Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins.  I like the 1-2 combination of Lee and Felix Hernandez, who is probably the best pitcher in the league under 25 years old.  The runner-up for the 2009 AL CY Young was 19-5 last season with an astonishing 2.49 ERA.  Expect him to be better this year.

The rest of the rotation is sketchy at best, but the rest of the division isn’t that strong and if one other starter steps up, the Mariner’s might have what they need to make the postseason.  I like the first five hitters in their lineup, Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley and Ken Griffey,Jr.  Junior is looking stronger this spring after off-season knee surgery and this might well be his last season.  Expect Ichiro to continue his dominance at the plate and in center and if Bradley can keep his positive attitude, he could have a phenomenal year at the plate.

2010 Prediction: 90-72, 2nd AL West

Texas Rangers:

Key Losses: Hank Blalok-DH

Key Additions: Vladimir Guerrero-OF/DH (free agent); Rich Harden-P

This scrappy little team really seems to represent the underdog team really well.  The Rangers haven’t made it to the postseason since ’99 and they have pretty much had a lock on the bottom of the division for most of that time.  After a great start to the 2009 season, the team faltered down the homestretch amid a plague of injuries, allowing the Angels to capture the division.

Team president Nolan Ryan really appears to have done well with this team.  He has gotten involved with the pitching, implementing some intriguing strategies that may well make this rotation exceed expectations.  I also like the addition of Rich Harden to an already decent rotation.

Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, and Nelson Cruz are a great 2-5 in the opening day lineup and will have to be responsible for most of the runs generated.  Ian Kinsler starts the season on the DL but could add a potent sixth hitter to that lineup.  I think the Rangers have enough this season to take the division and challenge in the playoffs.  As long as everyone stays healthy.

2010 Prediction: 91-71, 1st AL West

Oakland Athletics:

Key Additions: Ben Sheets-P (free agent/injury);

It’s hard for the whole moneyball concept to work when your players are constantly on the disabled list.  The A’s have unfortunately gone from contenders year-in and year-out to divisional bottom feeders.  Outside of Ben Sheets and Eric Chavez, I don’t really like anyone on the team.

I’m not saying this team won’t build back to greatness, in fact this may be a part of that path.  Unfortunately, this team does not have the lineup or pitching to challenge in even this division.

2010 Prediction: 71-91, 4th AL West


ESPN is reporting Sunday that the Colorado Rockies have agreed to a deal with former Yankees slugger Jason Giambi.  Giambi had signed with the Oakland A’s before the season to a 1 year, $5.25 Million deal, but he failed to perform, hitting only .193 with 11 HR and 40 RBI in 83 games.  2009 has been the worst statistical year of his career.

On July 20, Giambi went on the DL with a strained right quad.  Seemingly frustrated with his lack of offense and stint on the DL, Giambi was released on August 7th.  By releasing Giambi, the A’s still were required to continue to pay him the $5.25 Million he was owed.

No word yet on the monetary size of the 1-year deal with the Rockies, but despite all this, Giambi has done well this year.  In addition to his $5.25 million deal with Oakland, he also received a $5 million buyout from the Yankees because they didn’t pick up his $22 million option before the season started.

Since Colorado is in the National League, I would expect Giambi to pinch hit and have occasional spot starts at first base.  The team already has Todd Helton at first and he has appeared in all but 8 games this season, hitting .321 with an OBP of .403.

The Rockies have made a nice run for the playoffs in the second half of the season and have lowered a 10+ game lead by the NL West leading LA Dodgers to only 4 games.  They also lead the wild-card standings by 3 games over San Francisco.

With more than 150 family and friends in the stands, CC Sabathia heard the cheers when he walked to the bullpen and even more when he was introduced to the crowd in the stadium he used to come to as a kid.

Sabathia pitched eight sharp innings to win in Oakland, leading the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Athletics.

Derek Jeter had his third straight three-hit game and also knocked in the go-ahead run in a five-run sixth inning.

Sabathia gave up solo homers in the first two innings to Kurt Suzuki and Tommy Everidge. CC got into some trouble again, but got rid of Ryan Sweeney with the bases loaded to get out of a fourth-inning jam and cruised the rest of the way.

He allowed five hits and struck out seven in eight innings in a crisp 94-pitch performance, with 62 strikes thrown.

The game was tied at 2 when the Yankees broke it open in the sixth. Jeter followed with his RBI single that gave the Yankees the lead and the captain his third straight three-hit game. Johnny Damon added an RBI double, Rodriguez drove in a run when he walked with the bases loaded, Hideki Matsui hit an RBI single and Jorge Posada capped the inning with a sacrifice fly.

Jeter is in the middle of quite a stretch, batting (20-for-36) over his past nine games. MVP, anyone?

Chad Gaudin has his first start as a Yankee today. He’s had one good outing and one bad outing. Who knows which one will show up.

Quite a lot happened in the Yankee Universe this weekend.  From Derek Jeter further cementing his place in history, to Hideki Matsui getting his knee drained.  The Yankees took 3-4 from Seattle to start their 10 game road trip 3-1.  A face-off with Oakland looms, a team the Yankees have disposed of 5 times in 6 chances this season.

Boston lost 2 of 3 against Texas, ending the weekend 7.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and .5 games behind Texas for the wildcard.  They have the day off Monday before facing Toronto, a team they are only 5-4 against this season.

Captain Derek Jeter hit another career milestone Sunday, hitting his 2,674th hit as a shortstop, passing Luis Aparicio for career hits by a shortstop.  In true Jeter fashion, the hit was an RBI double that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead against the Mariners.

It won’t be long before he makes history again – Jeter sits in second place all-time in Yankees hits, only 33 behind the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig.  Including 13 hits as a DH, Jeter has 2,688.

Hideki Matsui had his knee drained on Saturday and was expected to miss Sunday’s game, but has been kept out of the lineup today.  No word on when he will return to the lineup; he’s listed as day-to-day.  Matsui has not played the field this season due to his knee issues, but the complications of years of knee issues have resulted in at least two knee-drains this season.  Hopefully, this should keep him fresh through the postseason.  Matsui is one of the most clutch hitters in the lineup.

Robinson Cano hit in all four games against Seattle to push his hitting-streak to 14 games.  During that time, he has increased his BA to .321.  Cano has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Yankees this season.

The Yankees are 11-3 in August, taking 4 of 5 from Toronto, sweeping 4 straight against Boston, and winning 3 of 4 in Seattle.  Oakland is the site of their next three games, the A’s being a team that the Yankees seemingly have had little trouble against this season.  After a relatively easy series in Oakland, the Yankees have a day off before traveling to Boston for a three-game series at Fenway.

Oh, and Jorge Posada celebrates his 38th birthday Monday.  He will be in the lineup.

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