The New York Yankees appear to be well on their way to guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout the postseason, but what’s made them the AL’s most feared team is their play on the road.
The Yankees haven’t lost a road series since early August, and they’ll look to maintain their dominance away from home during a six-game trip that begins Friday night against the Seattle Mariners and ace Felix Hernandez(notes).
New York (94-53) has won five of its last six road series - splitting the other - since dropping three of four to the Chicago White Sox from July 30-Aug. 2.
That success has pushed the Yankees’ road winning percentage to an AL-best .583, putting them on pace for their best record as visitors since the 2003 club went 51-29 (.638).
That was the year of New York’s last trip to the World Series, but manager Joe Girardi’s club has left little doubt it’s the favorite to represent the AL in the Fall Classic this season. The Yankees closed their 10-game homestand Wednesday with their seventh victory, this one courtesy of a walkoff RBI from Francisco Cervelli(notes) that capped a three-run rally in the final two innings to beat Toronto 5-4.
“This is as good as it gets when you’re finishing off a homestand and going on a tough road trip,” Girardi said after watching his club improve to 52-23 at home.
The Yankees are seven games ahead of Boston in the AL East and 6 1/2 up on the Angels for the league’s best record.
New York leads the majors in runs per game (5.7), homers (223) and on-base percentage (.363), but it has a tough task Friday. Hernandez (15-5, 2.52 ERA) is making a late push to be mentioned alongside Kansas City’s Zack Greinke(notes) for the AL Cy Young Award, going 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three September starts.
The right-hander gave up four hits and struck out five over seven innings Sunday in a 5-0 win at Texas.
Hernandez is 1-3 with a 5.92 ERA in four starts against the Yankees, whom he hasn’t faced since May 3, 2008. Johnny Damon(notes) is 5 for 9 with a homer while Mark Teixeira(notes) is hitting .333 with three homers against Hernandez.
“I know he’s probably going to have some added adrenaline,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners’ official Web site. “But all those things are valuable experiences. We’d like to be able to put him in the World Series, to pitch on the big stage with a big crowd. I think the last couple of starts have already been that in the race for the Cy Young.”
The Mariners (76-71) split their first two games with the White Sox this week, and seemed to be headed for their first series loss at home since the Yankees took three of four at Safeco Field from Aug. 13-16. Down 3-1 in the ninth inning Thursday, though, Jose Lopez(notes) and Bill Hall(notes) homered, then Ichiro Suzuki(notes) drove in a run in the 14th to give Seattle a 5-4 win.
Burnett is 6-6 with a 5.12 ERA on the road, but recently he’s struggled everywhere. He gave up six runs and seven hits - two homers - over seven innings Saturday in a 7-3 home loss to Baltimore that dropped Burnett to 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA since Aug. 1.