Sports: Sizzling Stripes

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Alex Rodriguez ties the ballgame with his 23rd career grand slam, tying Lou Gehrig for most in Major League history. Photo: Courtesy MLB.
As expected, the New York Yankees are right in the middle of things in the AL East.

Last month, it seemed that the Yanks may have very well buried themselves in the division with Baltimore and Tampa Bay going head-to-head for first place. The emergence of both their hitting and pitching has been a key factor in their turnaround. Once again, the buzz is back, however, manager Joe Girardi is not surprised at all about his team’s recent play. “I felt that if we just execute, and play the way we know how to play with some consistency, we’ll be right there,” he said.

Their pitching has been very durable now with the heroics of the returning Andy Pettitte, who seems to be penciling himself once again as the number two starter in the rotation. Pettitte will be 40 later this month but he sure is not pitching like a man turning 40. Already this year, Pettitte has had over three starts with 8 strikeouts or more in a game. Supposedly, you would think it’d be hard for a pitcher his age after taking a year off to take some time to get in the mix of things. Not Pettitte, he is pitching like he’s never left and it takes pressure off pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Other than Pettitte, Phil Hughes is coming around as he seems to have regain his aggressive form he had coming out of the bullpen in 2009. Hiroki Kuroda’s first season in pinstripes seemed like it was going to be a dreadful one as well. However, he too is coming with a more “go right at ’em” approach. In his last three starts, Kuroda’s ERA is an astonishing 0.83.

The last 18 games both the Yankees pitching and hitting have picked up. Their ERA (as a team) is 1.99, which includes a 1.76 ERA in the month of June, which is the best in the majors. In that same span, the Yankee bats have woken up as well hitting 31 home runs to go along with a .265 batting average. All that adds up to a 14-4 record, which has put them in a two-way first-place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays. Players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, all who had slumps to start the campaign, appear to have gotten their mojo back.

As a team, the Yankees have now taken the league lead in home runs with 93. Even though it may not seem like the right time to get hot, the Yankees are again in another battle for first place and with their recent hitting and pitching, they could be awfully dangerous come the second half of the season.

Question is, can they keep this up, after all, they are a veteran team and many critics may feel this “old mustang” may break down as we hit towards July and October. All in all, it has to be the Yankee pitching to get it done for them in a division that can very well have both of the wild cards to come out that division. As much as we talk about the rotation and their hitting, the Yankee bullpen has not gotten any recognition. We tend to forget that the bullpen, despite losing Mariano Rivera for the season, and David Robertson has been out as well, they still have managed to close out games for their starters. Consistency is key, Girardi said, so as we head towards the end of interleague play, the Yankees, despite the recent hot streak, will have to prove to many fans as well as their critics that this is no surprise and this year can very well be 2009 all over again.

Sports Notes: (Basketball) The NBA Finals are set. A matchup that many people predicted before the season will become a reality as LeBron James continues to fight for his 1st-ever NBA Championship as they play Kevin Durant and the young and hungry Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be the first time since 1997 (Jordan and Malone) that the NBA Finals will include the NBA’s regular season MVP (James) and the NBA’s scoring champ (Durant). (Baseball). Interleague play is here!! The Mets finish up a 3-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees head to the nation’s capital for a weekend 3-game set against Bryce Harper and the Nationals.