Yankees-Braves Preview


Three weeks ago, the New York Yankees were at the bottom of the AL East following their worst stretch of the season.

The club now has a chance to move back to the top of the standings.

The Yankees go for a fourth consecutive victory Monday night while the host Atlanta Braves try to start a new surge after their longest winning streak of the season was snapped.

Since dropping six of seven May 15-21 and being tied with Boston at a division-worst 21-21, the Yankees (34-25) have won 13 of 17 to move within one-half game of East-leading Tampa Bay.

With the Rays idle Monday, New York needs only a victory to own a piece of the top spot for the first time since it was 10-7 on April 24.

The Yankees, who've won 17 of their last 23 in interleague play following a three-game sweep of the Mets over the weekend, begin a six-game trip with Ivan Nova (7-2, 5.09 ERA) on the hill.

The right-hander, who can tie for the AL lead in victories by winning a fourth consecutive start, will try to continue the Yankees' brilliant run of starting pitching. The rotation has a combined 1.95 ERA as the club has won seven of nine in June.

"Especially when everybody's pitching good, I don't want to be the guy behind," Nova said after throwing eight innings in Wednesday's 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

Even if Nova isn't on top of his game, he may have plenty of margin for error as his run-support average of 6.62 is among the highest in the AL.

Atlanta (34-26) is looking to rebound after blowing a 4-0 lead and having its six-game win streak snapped with Sunday's 12-4 loss to Toronto. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the loss "might be the ugliest game we've played in a long time," but the Braves are still 8-2 since a season-worst eight-game skid and are just two games back of NL East-leading Washington.

Atlanta, winner of 13 of 16 interleague games, continues its nine-game homestand with Randall Delgado (4-5, 4.26) trying to win three consecutive starts for the first time.

The right-hander struck out a career-high seven in Wednesday's 2-1 victory at Miami.

"He put all three pitches wherever he wanted," Braves catcher Brian McCann told the team's official website. "... When you have stuff like that, you can go anywhere you want to go, and that's what he did."

Delgado, though, may have his hands full as New York leads the majors with 92 homers - eight this weekend after Russell Martin's second one Sunday was a walk-off shot in a 5-4 victory.

Derek Jeter, who is 3 for 7 in his last two games after going 0 for 16 in the previous four, is a .404 hitter (23 for 57) in 13 career games in Atlanta. That includes the Yankees' five road games - all wins - during their 1996 and '99 World Series victories.

Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who returned from the 15-day disabled list Sunday and finished 0 for 3 with a walk, is batting .328 (39 for 119) with six homers and 22 RBIs in 32 games against the Yankees.

Including postseason, the Yankees are 11-2 in Atlanta since the Braves relocated from Milwaukee after the 1965 season. These teams meet again in the Bronx next week.