With the Yankees bobbing around in last place in the AL East, I haven't spent much time looking at the standings thus far this year, but checking things out this morning, I see that a four-game losing streak has dropped the Orioles 2 1/2 games behind the Bombers, who are back at .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first place. They're only 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, however, and Toronto comes to the Bronx tomorrow for a three game series. That means a good week could bounce the Yankees up to third place with only the Rays and Red Sox, the teams with the two best records in the American League, and two of the three best records in baseball, ahead of them.
The Yankees can kick this week off right with a get-away win in Minneapolis tonight. Beating the Twins tonight would give the Yankees a series win (rather than the four-game split that would result from a loss), push them over .500, and give them the same record as the Twins, who are only a game out of first place in the Central entering tonight's game.
Andy Pettitte will look to pitch the Yankees to that victory. Pettitte is coming off three straight quality starts in which he's allowed a total of one home run and walked just three men while striking out 19 in 18 2/3 innings. He'll face Livan Hernandez, who has a 6.08 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. Of course, three of those starts came between 1997 and 2002, which is ancient history by now, but the most recent was last June and saw the Yankees tag Hernandez for seven runs in four innings including home runs by Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, and Jorge Posada.
Hernandez has an 8.74 ERA in his last two starts, and was most recently slapped around by the lowly Kansas City Royals. Despite giving up all those runs, he's not allowed a home run in his last 23 2/3 innings, but then he's only struck out three men over the same span (while walking only two). Hernandez's single-game high for strikeouts this year is four, and it took him seven innings to do that, and he's only walked three men in a game once all year. So one things for sure, the Yankees will be putting the ball in play tonight.