The Yankees and Rangers enter this week’s three game series in the Bronx separated by a half game for the best record in the American League. Since the Yankees took two of three from the Rangers in Arlington last week, both teams won three games of a four-game series against a lesser opponent. Beating up on losing teams has been the Rangers’ m.o. thus far this season, but they’re just 5-10 against teams currently over .500, including last week’s series loss to the Yankees.
The Yanks, meanwhile, are flat-out rollin’, beating all comers. Dating back to May 8, they’re 16-6 (.727) and 6-1 in series. Their one series loss came at home against the NL East-leading Phillies, but their current run also includes series wins against the then-AL best Blue Jays and still-AL best Rangers. Since May 13, the Yankees are 14-4 (.778) and have not made a single error, setting a major league record with 18-straight errorless games. Just three American League teams have turned balls in play into outs at a higher rate than the Yankees (Texas is one of them), and no team in the majors is scoring runs more often than the Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees current run began after they were swept at home in consecutive two-game series by the Red Sox and Rays. After this week’s three-game set against Texas, the Rays return to the Bronx for four games after which the Yankees travel to Boston for three. That will be the real test, of course, but by taking two of three from the Rangers now, they could enter that gauntlet with the league’s best record.
As for the Rangers, they haven’t changed much since we last saw them save for tonight’s starter, Vicente Padilla, who returns from the disabled list to reclaim his rotation spot from the now-injured Matt Harrison (sore shoulder). Padilla ran off three impressive starts (23 IP, 4 ER) before landing on the DL with a strained shoulder two weeks ago, but had a 7.42 ERA entering that stretch, so who knows what to expect from him tonight. Last year, he faced the Yankees just once, allowing four runs in six innings in Arlington in early August.
Padilla will be opposed by A.J. Burnett, who ten starts into his Yankee career looks an awful lot like the same old A.J. Burnett. He’s struck out 21 men in 18 2/3 innings across his last three starts, but also walked 12 in that span and allowed three home runs in a loss to the Phillies two starts ago. Last time out, he held Texas scoreless on three hits (and four walks) over six innings to earn the win. Here’s hoping for a repeat of that tonight.