Angels-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The return of Alex Rodriguez might be dominating the headlines in New York, but Alfonso Soriano's bat is the biggest reason the Yankees have played well of late.

Soriano looks to continue his tear while trying to help the Yankees to a fifth consecutive victory and four-game sweep of the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.

One night after Soriano homered twice and drove in six runs during New York's 14-7 win over Los Angeles (53-66), he hit two more and had a career-high seven RBIs in Wednesday's 11-3 victory.

Prior to going 6 for 9 in the last two contests, Soriano hit .193 (11 for 57) with three homers and eight RBIs in his first 15 games since the Yankees (62-57) reacquired him from the Chicago Cubs last month.

The 37-year-old Soriano, who hit a first-inning grand slam off Jered Weaver on Wednesday, joins Texas' Rusty Greer (1997) and Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins (2001) as the only players with at least six RBIs in back-to-back games since 1920.

"He's just kind of bringing life into this whole offense," teammate Chris Stewart said. "It seems like when he gets going everybody else kind of ignites, too, and our whole offense clicks.

"It's nice having him in there.''

Soriano has helped the Yankees build some confidence as they try to make a serious push for the playoffs. New York has won five of six after losing 17 of 26.

He's 2 for 5 with a homer against scheduled Los Angeles starter C.J. Wilson (12-6, 3.49 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts versus New York. The left-hander allowed two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 victory over the Yankees on June 14.

Wilson improved to 4-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his last six starts overall after he grinded through 5 1-3 innings to allow seven hits and four walks but two runs in a 7-2 win at Cleveland on Saturday.

"I felt I pitched pretty well,'' Wilson said. "It was a battle to get ahead of guys. There's no other way to characterize it.''

Losers in four straight since opening their seven-game trip with two straight wins at Cleveland, the Angels have dropped 20 of 26 in the Bronx - including the postseason.

Mike Trout has been one of the few consistent bright spots for the underachieving Angels, recording five RBIs in the series and batting .382 with 25 RBIs while reaching base safely in 36 consecutive contests.

The New Jersey native is 11 for 25 with six RBIs in six games at Yankee Stadium. He's 2 for 3 with a homer against scheduled starter Phil Hughes (4-11, 4.99).

The right-hander, 0-4 with a 6.43 ERA in his last six starts, allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday. It was the third straight start and fourth in six that Hughes failed to complete at least five innings.

"It's just consistency, that's the biggest difference for him,'' said manager Joe Girardi, who doesn't appear to have any worthy options to replace Hughes in the rotation. "He works hard in between starts to try and fix things but it hasn't shown up in games.''

Hughes has been consistently ineffective while yielding 19 runs, 28 hits - including five homers - in 13 2-3 innings to go 0-2 in his last three starts versus Los Angeles.

Teammate Robinson Cano is batting .419 the last nine games after going 4 for 4 Wednesday.

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