The New York Yankees received bad news on Monday, learning that their second-half playoff push may have to take place without their longtime catcher in the lineup.
The good news? That push may have already begun.
With Jorge Posada back on the disabled list, the Yankees will look to win their fifth straight game overall - and ninth in a row at home - when they continue their series with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
Posada has battled shoulder problems all season, catching in only 30 games and spending all of May on the disabled list. He went back on the DL Monday, and could miss the rest of the year if he decides to have surgery.
New York (54-45) also might be without Hideki Matsui (swollen knee) for the rest of 2008, but its offense didn’t have any problems in a 12-4 win over Minnesota (55-44) on Monday. Posada’s replacement, Jose Molina, had three hits, while Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter each homered.
“We’ve been looking to score runs early and really try to deliver the knockout punch, something we haven’t really been very successful with this year,” Rodriguez said. “But hopefully this was a sign of things to come.”
The Yankees are 4-0 since the All-Star break, one year after winning six of their first seven after the break en route to a 51-25 second half and the AL wild card.
They have also won eight straight games at Yankee Stadium, their longest winning streak at their soon-to-be-extinct ballpark since a nine-game run in May 2005.
“This is the team that we are,” said Cano, who is 10-for-19 with two home runs since the break. “Everybody contributes, and our pitching is great.”
Injuries have also been a factor for the Yankees’ rotation, as Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy all remain out. After Sidney Ponson beat the Twins Monday, Darrell Rasner will look to do the same.
Rasner (5-7, 4.97 ERA) has pitched exactly five innings in each of his last five starts, going 2-3 with a 7.20 ERA over that span. He lasted 5 1-3 innings at Minnesota on June 1, allowing four runs and eight hits in a 5-1 loss.
He’ll be facing a Twins offense that has tallied four runs in two games since scoring a season-high 14 in a win over Texas on Saturday. Justin Morneau is 0-for-8 in the last two after a nine-game hitting streak, while leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez is 5-for-57 (.088) in his last 13 contests.
Minnesota is looking to avoid its second three-game losing streak this month after winning 18 of 21 from June 13-July 6. The Twins are one-half game behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
Kevin Slowey (6-6, 4.26) will be making his first start in 12 days after he was pushed back due to an infected fingernail. Slowey will also be hoping to rebound from a pair of tough outings before the All-Star break, as he gave up 11 runs in 9 2-3 innings in his last two starts.
Minnesota has still won Slowey’s last six starts, as the right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.26 ERA over that span.
Slowey has faced the Yankees once, allowing five runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings in the Bronx on July 5, 2007. He did not receive a decision in Minnesota’s 7-6 loss.
The Twins likely aren’t nostalgic about playing their final regular-season series at Yankee Stadium. They are 3-17 there since 2002.
“You make mistakes with these guys here, you pay for them, and we paid for a lot of our mistakes out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
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