As Alex pointed out yesterday, tonight the Yankees begin a stretch in which they play 21 games in 20 days, 15 of which will come against teams that currently have winning records. Following an off day on August 28, the Yankees will play six more games against contenders, which adds up to 21 of 27 games over the next 27 days against teams with winning records.
At the core of that stretch is a five-game series in Boston that kicks off with a Friday double header, but the second most important of the eight series in this period, at least according to today's standings, is the one that begins tonight in Chicago. Entering tonight's game, the Yankees are two games better (three in the loss column) than the White Sox, who are tied with the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card lead. Since the All-Star break, the White Sox have gone 8-14 while the Yankees have gone 16-6, each pace being set when the Yankees swept the Sox in the Bronx to start the second half.
Since then, the Yankees have made three huge additions to their roster in Bobby Abreu, Craig Wilson and Cory Lidle. Although Lidle will not appear in this series, the Yankees will make yet another improvement to their roster today as they activate Robinson Cano, who will reclaim his starting second base job as Miguel Cairo takes his spot on the DL with a hamstring injury of his own.
The White Sox, meanwhile, made just two minor deals at the deadline resulting in their swapping out former Yankee backstop Chris Widger for the 40-year-old Sandy Alomar Jr. and demoting 26-year-old righty Sean Tracey for former Royals closer Mike "Mac the Ninth" MacDougal (so much for the nickname). Otherwise, their roster remains the same as it was in mid-July.
So far, so good for the Yanks. Tonight things kick off with Chien-Ming Wang taking on Freddy Garcia. Wang hasn't allowed a run in his last 18 innings pitched (6 H, 5 BB, 4 K, 208 pitches). Garcia, meanwhile, hasn't won a game since June, though he pitched well enough to win against the Rangers on July 22, leaving a 1-1 tie after seven innings only to watch closer Bobby Jenks cough up two runs in the ninth.
With Cano back in the line-up following an off day, we should see an order that looks something like this:
L - Damon (CF)
R - Jeter (SS)
L - Abreu (RF)
R - Rodriguez (3B)
L - Giambi (DH)
S - Posada (C)
R - Wilson (1B)
L - Cano (2B)
S - Cabrera (LF)
Man that's purdy. Oh, and Cano went 7 for 15 with two doubles and three walks (!) in his four minor league rehab games.