ARLINGTON, TX (AP) — The New York Yankees will play 15 of their final 22 games on the road. Perhaps the most important stretch is their nine-game road trip that begins Friday.
The Yankees open the trip with a potential playoff preview against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
New York (87-53), which enters this three-game series with a 2 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East, will visit the Rays beginning Monday. First, the Yankees will take on the Rangers (77-63), who have a 7 1/2-game advantage over Oakland atop the West. New York has won four of five in the season series, and is 16-5 at Texas over the past six seasons.
The Yankees went 7-3 on their just-completed homestand, but narrowly avoided a three-game sweep by last-place Baltimore on Wednesday, winning 3-2 on Nick Swisher’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
“We’ve got to play well, no doubt,” Swisher told the Yankees’ official website about the upcoming road trip. “We’ve got two great teams we’re coming up on, Texas and Tampa Bay, (and then) Baltimore, who obviously has been playing amazing lately. We’ve got our work cut out for us.””
Javier Vazquez (10-9, 5.01 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees, looking to avoid a repeat of his most recent start in Arlington, which played a part in his demotion to the bullpen.
The right-hander was dropped from the rotation after going 2-2 with a 6.69 ERA from July 21-Aug. 21, which included an Aug. 11 start against the Rangers in which he gave up six runs in 4 1-3 innings.
Vazquez rejoined the rotation last weekend but struggled against Toronto on Saturday, allowing five runs, four walks and two home runs in 4 2-3 innings of an eventual 7-5 win.
“He did OK,” manager Joe Girardi said. “My plan is for him to stay in the rotation. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. There are no guarantees in this game.”
The Rangers return home after salvaging a 4-6 road trip with back-to-back wins over Toronto, including a 4-2 victory Thursday. Mitch Moreland drove in three runs and Colby Lewis won for the first time since July 16.
“Things just went bad for us there for a minute but we were able to right the ship,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s what it’s all about.””
While Josh Hamilton missed his fifth straight game with bruised ribs and is unlikely to play Friday, Texas does expect Elvis Andrus to play for the first time since last Saturday. The shortstop, who is hitting .276, has been out with a sore right hamstring.
Texas, which has fallen behind Minnesota for home-field advantage in the first-round of the playoffs, has dropped three of four at home after winning 11 of its previous 15 in Arlington.
Rangers starter C.J. Wilson (14-6, 3.10) looks to bounce back from his first loss in nearly two months.
Wilson had been 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA since July 18, but gave up six runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-5 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. He walked four and hit a batter.
The left-hander is 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season.
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