The New York Yankees had baseball’s best record after the All-Star break last year, turning a mediocre start into their 13th straight postseason appearance.
They’re hoping their comfortable win Friday is the start of another second-half surge.
New York will look to win its sixth straight home game on Saturday when it continues its series with the Oakland Athletics, who have lost three straight for the first time since May.
The Yankees’ 51-25 record after the break last year earned them the AL wild card despite a 43-43 start. Their offense awakened in the second half, averaging 6.6 runs as five of their regulars batted above .300 over that span.
They turned in that kind of effort Friday, beating Oakland 7-1 in their first contest since hosting the All-Star game. Mike Mussina pitched six solid innings and Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a home run as the Yankees matched their longest home winning streak of the season.
“We looked good today. If we can look like this every day, we’ve got a chance,” Mussina said.
Robinson Cano—who hit .343 with 57 RBIs after the break last year—was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer against the A’s. Cano is hoping to bounce back after hitting .246 with six home runs in the first half.
“It should be a great second half for him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a career .330-plus hitter after the All-Star break. Some hitters just take longer to get going.”
The presence of Joba Chamberlain also boosted New York (51-45) after the 2007 break, as the right-hander allowed one earned run in 24 innings as a reliever.
Chamberlain (2-3, 2.62 ERA) hopes to have an even bigger impact this year. He’s coming off his first loss as a starter after he gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Toronto last Friday, but he matched a career high with nine strikeouts and did not walk a batter for the first time in his eight starts.
“It was impressive to see the way he got better as the game went along,” catcher Jorge Posada said of Chamberlain. “He did a lot of things well. His curveball was outstanding. That’s probably the best curveball I’ve seen from him this year.”
Chamberlain, who has never faced Oakland, has a 2.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 41 2-3 innings since joining the rotation, but has just one win over that span and hasn’t yet completed seven innings in a start.
He’ll try to shut down a struggling A’s lineup that has scored five runs during a three-game skid. Oakland (51-45) hadn’t dropped three straight since a four-game slide to close the month of May.
The A’s are 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position during their losing streak, and their .249 batting average is among the worst in the AL.
Sean Gallagher (1-0, 2.57), one of the pieces they got from the Chicago Cubs for Harden and Chad Gaudin, made a strong A’s debut last Friday, allowing two hits and two runs in seven innings of a 9-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels— Oakland’s last victory.
Gallagher struggled on the road with Chicago this season, however, going 0-4 with a 5.05 ERA away from Wrigley Field.