Athletics-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees are scuffling offensively and in the midst of their second four-game losing streak of the season, but there's reason for optimism heading into Thursday's series finale with the Oakland Athletics.

Not only is Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list, but it's Masahiro Tanaka's turn in the rotation.

Tanaka, who stopped the Yankees' last four-game skid, looks to prevent the Athletics from sweeping their first series in the Bronx in eight years.

Beltran's return comes at an opportune time considering New York (29-29) has totaled 14 runs during a 1-5 stretch and is batting .206 during its skid.

''The guys are doing everything they can, but right now we just aren't getting it done," manager Joe Girardi said after Wednesday's 7-4 loss.

Beltran, who has been on the DL since May 15 because of a hyperextended right elbow, was tied for second on the Yankees in homers (five) and doubles (10) and had 15 RBIs at the time of his injury. He'll be used as the designated hitter Thursday and perhaps for the near future, as Girardi is uncertain when Beltran will be able to play the outfield again.

The Yankees are in danger of falling below .500 for the first time since they were 5-6 on April 11, but appear to have the right person taking the ball to end their slide.

Since his streak of 42 regular-season starts without a loss ended May 20, Tanaka (8-1, 2.06 ERA) has posted a 0.61 ERA in winning his last two. The AL pitcher of the month for May gave up an unearned run and four hits - all singles with only two leaving the infield - in eight innings of a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday. He struck out nine as the Twins became the latest team baffled by his splitter.

''Guys said the ball was just disappearing,'' Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''His splitter is unbelievable, he's got all the pitches.''

Tanaka, the AL's ERA leader, ranks sixth in the league with 88 strikeouts and his opponents' 30.3 percent of swings that miss is the best among AL starters.

After stifling the Twins, the right-hander said he believes some of his success stems from opposing hitters being unfamiliar with his pitches. This will be his first time facing Oakland, but the A's (37-22) are one of baseball's most disciplined teams at the plate, leading the majors in walks with 258.

Yoenis Cespedes homered twice and Josh Donaldson hit a tiebreaking shot in the seventh inning Wednesday as Oakland rallied from a four-run deficit to extend its winning streak to five.

The A's have also won six straight over the Yankees, but haven't swept a series in the Bronx since June 9-11, 2006. New York has lost four straight at Yankee Stadium and 12 of 16 there.

Unlike New York, the A's, who own baseball's best road record at 20-10, are having no such trouble offensively, plating 38 runs with a .298 average and 11 homers during their win streak. Cespedes is 7 for 17 with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last four games, while Donaldson is hitting .367 with four homers and 11 RBIs in his last seven.

''Our offense, it's only a matter of time sometimes before they break out," reliever Dan Otero said.

Drew Pomeranz (5-2, 2.37) was bailed out by Oakland's offense Friday, when he permitted five runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

The left-hander, who has never faced the Yankees, was 3-1 with a 0.95 ERA in his first four starts since moving to the rotation last month.

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