Mets-Yankees Preview

AP - Sports

The New York Yankees are slugging their way to a strong stretch - with some impressive starting pitching playing a key role as well.

They're also on the cusp of sweeping a series from the New York Mets at home for the first time in nearly nine years heading into Sunday's finale.

The Yankees (33-25) lead the majors with 90 homers, and they've connected for 29 of them with a .481 slugging percentage during a 12-4 stretch that has them one-half game behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay.

That stretch includes six home runs against the Mets (32-28), as Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson connected in a 4-2 victory Saturday. That came after the Yankees took the opener of this three-game set 9-1 a day earlier thanks in part to a pair of homers from Robinson Cano.

Now, the Yankees are in position to sweep the Mets in the Bronx for the first time since June 27-29, 2003 - a stretch of four games that also included a Yankees win in Queens during a June 28 day-night, crosstown doubleheader.

"I think the crowd gives us energy. It's a big series for New York," Teixeira said. "When you're playing at home it just makes it that much more special.

"Right now we're on a nice little run. Starting pitching has been the key."

The Yankees' rotation has a 1.41 ERA while holding opponents to a .156 average in winning five of six.

Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.78 ERA) will try to keep that going as he looks to continue his dominant stretch at Yankee Stadium.

The left-hander has won three starts in a row at home behind a 0.81 ERA after striking out a season-high 10 while allowing just two hits through 7 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 7-0 victory over Tampa Bay.

"I don't really try to strike guys out," Pettitte said. "I feel like I am able to keep guys off-balance."

He's lost his last two home starts against the Mets while surrendering eight runs in 11 innings. However, he hasn't faced the crosstown rivals since June 13, 2009.

While the Yankees are surging, the Mets are mired in a 1-5 stretch in which they've hit .193. They've collected 10 hits in the first two games of this series and couldn't get anything going besides a pair of homers Saturday.

"Singles don't win too many games in this ballpark," manager Terry Collins said. "We have to have somebody step up and get some hits."

Daniel Murphy has been one of the main culprits in the Mets' slump, going 2 for 26 with one RBI to drop his season average 26 points to .281. He's 5 for 26 on the road against the Yanks, and 0 for 7 in this series.

Jonathon Niese (4-2, 4.11) got plenty of help from the offense in his most recent outing. The left-hander fanned a career-high 10 while scattering six hits in six scoreless innings of a 6-1 win over St. Louis last Sunday.

He's getting his first start at Yankee Stadium, and lost his only game in the Subway Series on July 1. He allowed three runs and nine hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 5-1 defeat.

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