04/18/10 6:24 PM ET
Early success stories in A's, Yanks collide
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
That the Yankees sit atop the American League East should shock no one. They are, after all, the defending World Series champions. That their opponent on Tuesday, the A's, are in the same position in the AL West isn't exactly what people predicted, even this early in the season.
"When people don't talk too much about you, it's fun to fly under the radar," said A's outfielder Ryan Sweeney, whose game-winning hit on Saturday was the A's third walk-off victory of the season.
Both teams have been getting it done with starting pitching. A's starters went 6-0 through 13 games with an AL-leading 2.30 ERA before Brett Anderson gave up six runs -- five earned -- over five innings on Sunday. The Yankees aren't too far behind, with a 7-2 record for their starters and a 3.41 ERA.
The Yankees are coming off a sweep of the Rangers in which their staff allowed just six runs all weekend. One of the few who has not enjoyed early success gets the ball on Tuesday night. Javier Vazquez has lost each of his first two starts, allowing 12 runs on 14 hits over 11 innings of work. According to the right-hander, it's been about timing and rhythm. During his bullpen session on Saturday, he worked on that in the hopes that when the juices are flowing during the game, he'll be able to calm himself down.
"In the game, you get the adrenaline going and start rushing a bit," Vazquez said. "It's easily correctable."
The A's will send two lefties to the mound during the three-game series, starting with Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday. This will be Gonzalez's first start at home after two on the road against AL West opponents. He won his 2010 debut against the Angels and then battled to pitch into the fifth inning of an eventual A's loss to the Mariners. The often-combustible young lefty is still shaking off the impact of some personal loss and adversity.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," said Gonzalez, who lost a close friend in a car accident a few weeks ago and learned his girlfiend was involved in a different serious accident a week and a half ago. "I've been trying to bounce back. ... It's too much to deal with in a matter of two weeks."
Yankees: Thames ready for West Coast
As the part of the left-field platoon that faces left-handed pitching, Marcus Thames has picked up just 10 at-bats so far this year. He's acquitted himself well in that limited time, picking up five hits. But it's been Brett Gardner who's gotten most of the time, with 30 ABs.
Things should be a little more equitable during the Yankees' six-game swing out west. Two of the three games in Oakland will feature lefty starters for the A's, Gonzalez and Dallas Braden. He'll get one more start in Los Angeles against the Angels.
"I'm just trying to take one game at a time and have some good at-bats," Thames said. "I prepare myself like I play every day. That's the way I've always been. I always know my role, and whenever my name is on the lineup card, I'll be ready to play."
A's: Ellis expected back for Yankees
Second baseman Mark Ellis should be ready to go when the Yankees come to town. He's been out of the lineup for seven straight games with a sore left hamstring, but he tested it on Sunday and will receive treatment during Monday's off-day before a final determination for Tuesday is made.
"He's been getting better every day," manager Bob Geren said. "We're shooting for Tuesday."
Ellis, who experienced sore hamstrings during Spring Training as well, has been taking batting practice and doing agility drills to stay sharp. Adam Rosales has started in his place and hit .364 during that time heading into Sunday's finale against the Orioles.
The Yankees' 9-3 start is their best since 2003. They finished their first homestand 5-1. ... Yankees starting pitching went 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA during the recently completed six-game homestand. ... When Gardner got thrown out stealing on Sunday, it broke a streak of 15 straight successful steal attempts, going back to last season. ... The A's were also off to their best start in a long time. They were 9-4 heading into Sunday's game, their best record after 13 games since 1992. ... Oakland has had three walk-off wins this season, after having just five for all of 2009.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.