By Steve Silverman
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The Yankees continue to say a prayer of thanks every time they see the Minnesota Twins on the schedule.
After the Yankees finished a regrettable month of June (11-16) with a five game losing streak, they started July with a lovely trip to Minnesota to play the Twins. The Twins are some sort of magic medicine for the Yankees for years, whether they are hosting the Yankees or visiting the Bronx.
The Yankees swept the Twins in their beautiful home at Target Field in four straight games. The Twins are not a good team, but they have been much better this year than they were a year ago. They have Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Josh Willingham can hit the long ball. They don’t have name pitchers, but they were competitive before the Yankees came to town.
After getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles, the visit to Minnesota gave the Yankees a chance to breathe.
Apparently, that’s all they needed.
The Orioles arrived in the Bronx Friday night and seemingly had another chance to beat up on the Yankees. The Orioles are not a juggernaut, but they should be in the race for a playoff spot all season. Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Adam Jones are a nice trio in the middle of the lineup.
But the Yankees have seemingly changed their identity in the last week. Not only have they beaten the Orioles in the first two games of the series, they did it with clutch play in both games. Friday night, they scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Orioles and closer Jim Johnson.
Yesterday, they overcame an early home run by Chris Davis and a 4-2 deficit and came back with a 5-4 win. There was no drama in the comeback, just two runs in the fifth to tie and a run in the sixth to go ahead.
The Orioles never mounted a serious threat against the Yankees pitching after that. Andy Pettitte pitched well into the seventh inning. David Robertson took care of business in the eighth and The Best Closer Ever shut down the Orioles with such ease that it wasn’t fair.
Mariano Rivera is retiring from the Yankees but he is still on top of his game. He has registered saves in 29 of the Yankees 48 victories.
The most encouraging aspect of the Yankees’ 5-4 victory was the return of shortstop Eduardo Nunez. He was 2-for-3 in his return and drove in two runs. He was steady in the field and his production increased the confidence level on the team.
The Yankees will get a boost when Derek Jeter returns. He began a rehab assignment with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders by going 0-for-2 and handling one simple ground ball. The only test came after he hit a ground ball to third base and he sprinted (in name only) to first base without a problem.
Six wins in a row for the Yankees with the belief that their captain is about to return. The Yankees have passed the Orioles and are in second place in the AL East, at least temporarily.
On the same day that Jeter was cavorting in Pennsylvania, the first place Red Sox blew a four-run, ninth-inning lead to the Angels and lost in 11 innings.
The first half of the season has not been kind. But they have survived.
The second half as a chance to be much better.
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