The New York Yankees are rapidly cutting into their deficit in the AL East thanks to a strong showing in interleague play.
The surging Yankees finish their three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, looking for a sweep and their ninth straight win.
New York (32-31) won its eighth straight on Wednesday, beating the Diamondbacks 7-2 to extend the team’s longest winning streak since a 10-game run from May 7-17, 2005. The Yankees also improved to 6-2 in interleague play, winning their last six after dropping two games to the New York Mets on May 18 and 19.
The recent surge has also helped New York pull within 8 1/2 games of Boston in the AL East. The Yankees were trailing the Red Sox by 14 1/2 games on May 29 before winning 11 of their last 13.
The win moved the Yankees above .500 for the first time since April 20, when the team was 8-7.
“There is a lot of confidence in this clubhouse,” said Rodriguez, who had only five homers in May. “It starts with the pitching and defense obviously, and timely hitting.”
New York’s upswing coincides with a soft patch of the schedule that included series victories over the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, teams that are struggling at or near the bottom of their respective divisions. Even the Diamondbacks (37-29), who began the month on an impressive tear, have dropped five of six.
Seven Yankee players had a hit Wednesday, with Rodriguez, Matsui and Robinson Cano having two apiece. New York has outscored opponents 60-23 during its eight-game winning streak.
“When a team is on a roll, the ones they hit hard find seats and the ones they don’t find holes,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said.
While the Yankees do have a three-game Subway Series against the NL East-leading New York Mets this weekend, they will have another chance to play lesser opposition immediately afterward with interleague opponents Colorado and San Francisco—the two worst teams in the NL West.
Andy Pettitte (3-4, 3.11 ERA) looks for his first win in four starts as he closes out the series for New York.
Pettitte has not received a decision in his last two outings, including last Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, after he allowed four runs and nine hits in eight innings of New York’s 5-4, 10-inning victory.
The left-hander is 1-5 with a 5.01 ERA in six appearances—five starts— against the Diamondbacks. He has lost five straight against them, including three last season while pitching for the Houston Astros.
The Diamondbacks will counter with Doug Davis (4-7, 3.48), who is coming off his shortest outing of the season. Davis lasted just four innings against the Red Sox on Friday, allowing five runs and six hits while walking five in a 10-3 loss.
“It was poor execution all night, falling behind hitters in 2-0, 2-1 counts and having to serve it up to them,” Davis told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site. “And they know what’s coming because when I get behind in the count, obviously I’m throwing a cutter.”
Davis had allowed a combined two runs in his previous two starts. He is 3-1 with a 6.08 ERA in five starts against the Yankees.