The New York Yankees have all but vanquished the rest of the AL East, but they’ll have an opportunity to unintentionally help out two of their division rivals this week.
That’s because the Texas Rangers remain in a tight race with two East clubs for the wild card as they continue a difficult road trip with the first of three at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.
New York (78-46) took two of three in Boston over the weekend to bolster its already comfortable division lead and improve its post-All-Star break record to 27-9. The torrid second half has given the Yankees the best record in baseball and a clear path back to the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
The Rangers (69-54) would love to join them, but they still face a slim deficit behind the Red Sox in the chase for the wild card, with Tampa Bay not far behind. Texas started its road trip with a series against the Rays, avoiding a sweep with a 4-0 win Sunday.
“We needed a well-pitched game, and we shut out a pretty good team,” manager Ron Washington said. “I just think it showed the character and the resiliency in that clubhouse.”
After Scott Feldman(notes) struck out 11 in seven brilliant innings in that game, the Rangers - third in the AL with a 4.13 ERA - will need more strong pitching against one of the most powerful lineups in the majors. They gave up a total of 22 runs while losing two of three in the Bronx from June 2-4.
The Yankees, who lead the majors with a .358 on-base percentage, are looking even more powerful after hitting five homers off Boston ace Josh Beckett(notes) in an 8-4 win Sunday night and totaling 29 runs in the series.
He’s 3 for 9 in his career against Kevin Millwood(notes), who will take the ball Tuesday seeking his second win in nine career starts against the Yankees. He has a 2.84 ERA in his last five outings versus New York but is 1-1 in those games.
Millwood (9-8, 3.48 ERA) struggled Wednesday against Minnesota, allowing five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 loss - his first defeat since the All-Star break.
“I expect him to be (sharp),” manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees’ official Web site. “Expectations are high around here for all of our pitchers to go out and pitch at a high level. I know he’s had a couple of extra days off, but he also had an extra bullpen he threw earlier in the week.”
It has already been a difficult August for Chamberlain, who has a 6.75 ERA in three starts this month, walking 12 in 16 innings.
Chamberlain (8-3, 3.98) has never lost to the Rangers but hasn’t completed five innings in any of his three starts against them, posting a 7.11 ERA with 10 walks in 12 2-3 innings. The Yankees lost all three.
Millwood and Chamberlain faced off May 26 in Texas, with neither getting a decision in the Rangers’ 7-3 win.