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July 19, 2005

First place
by SG

With yesterday's slugfest victory over the Texas Rangers, and Boston's loss to the Tampa Devil Rays, the Yankees have finally moved into first place in the AL East, for the first time since the second game of the season. With the wild streaks and inconsistent play so far this season, this certainly seems improbable.

They are not there to stay by any means. The starting rotation is still in shambles, although the news about Tiger Wang having shoulder inflammation and not needing surgery yet is very encouraging. If Al Leiter's performance was indicative of him re-discovering himself, and if Wang, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and Jaret Wright can comeback, then the Yankees will be in decent shape. Brown was a disappointment again yesterday, but he was making a rehab start in the majors due to the Yankees' desperation so I won't write him off yet.

After criticizing Melky Cabrera's defense and sending him back to Columbus because of Bernie Williams's experience and one nice catch in Boston, Bernie was back to his defensive struggles, as he missed a double over his head and then called off Hideki Matsui to drop a ball that allowed Texas to tie the game and take the lead.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Tanyon Sturtze 2.0 shut down Texas and Ruben Sierra delivered a big clutch hit to give the Yankees a lead that they would not relinquish.
Sierra pulled his hamstring rounding first and will likely be headed to the DL. I never would have thought that this would be a big blow, but Ruben has gotten several huge hits for the team and will likely be missed, since it will mean more playing time for either the struggling Tino Martinez or the putrescent Tony Womack.

Today's game is huge. With Aaron Small called up to make spot start (career ERA of 5.49, ERA of 4.69 in Columbus this year) tomorrow, a win today will make tomorrow a less important game. With Boston playing the woeful Devil Rays, the Yankees need to try not to lose too much ground.

Felix Rodriguez is due back soon, which should help a bullpen that is in danger of being burnt out. Mariano Rivera has pitched in 3 of the last 4 days, but I can't blame Torre for that, these were all must-win games. I thought he waited way too long to pull Scott Proctor and then Wayne Franklin, which ended up costing the Yankees the lead.

Texas's Chan Ho Park would seem to be the type of pitcher the Yankees could explode on, so if Mike Mussina has a good game they may be able to give the bullpen some much needed rest today.

The Yankee offense is on fire right now, with Jorge Posada appearing to come out of a season long slump. Gary Sheffield still plays lackadaisical defense, but the man is a hitting machine. His line drive HR yesterday was one of the most impressive ones I've seen. If Derek Jeter remembers how to get on base, the Yankees should be in good shape to score enough to keep them in games until they can get healthy again.