08/08/10 9:09 PM ET
Yanks visit Rangers in potential playoff preview
By Dan Mennella / MLB.com
There's plenty of baseball to played, and no team is getting ahead of itself, but it's never too soon to look forward to potential playoff previews.
The Rangers and Yankees will spark plenty of that speculation on Tuesday, when they kick off a two-game set in Arlington. Both reside in first place in their respective divisions, and neither figures to slip out of contention any time soon. Texas, in particular, owns a commanding lead in the American League West. And though the Yankees and Rays are battling for supremacy in the AL East, whoever comes in second place is a strong candidate to nab the AL Wild Card.
Texas, seeking its first playoff berth since 1999, will test its mettle against the Bronx Bombers before welcoming in the Red Sox for a weekend series after another off-day on Thursday. It marks the end of a 16-game stretch against division rivals for the Rangers, who went 9-7 in those games.
The clubs will get their fill of each other over the final month-plus of the season, as the Yankees will visit the Rangers again from Sept. 10-12. The five games comprise about 20 percent of Texas' home slate for the balance of the season. The early advantage so far, however, belongs to Yankees, who swept a three-game series from the Rangers (April 16-18) at Yankee Stadium in their only meeting thus far.
A potential playoff clash in 2010 between these clubs is not without precedent. In each of their three postseason appearances, the Rangers' run came to an end at the hands of the Yankees, who beat Texas in October three times (1996, '98, 99) en route to World Series titles.
The upcoming series saw its first wrinkle on Sunday, when Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was scratched in favor of Dustin Moseley after suffering back tightness during a flat-ground throwing session on Saturday. Burnett's start was pushed back to Tuesday against Texas.
"I'm pretty certain he'll make that start," manager Joe Girardi said. "My initial reaction would be, he wouldn't have gone on the field [Monday] if he was having issues."
The pitching shuffle could also have a trickle-down effect for the Yankees' catching situation. Girardi prefers to use Francisco Cervelli to catch starters Javier Vazquez and Burnett, but with Burnett scratched on Sunday, Jorge Posada was in at catcher for the night game and again on Monday afternoon. It marked the first time Posada had caught three consecutive games since early May.
Of course, Cervelli could start on Tuesday, but the Yankees' lineup is stronger with Posada behind the dish and Lance Berkman as the designated hitter, and with Vazquez slated to start Wednesday, it seems more likely Posada will get the call again on Tuesday. Texas ace Cliff Lee will be on the mound opposite Vazquez, to boot. But Girardi suggested on Monday that he hadn't made up his mind who will get the start behind the plate throughout the series.
Yankees: Home at the Rangers
In addition to their postseason triumphs against Texas, the Yankees have also fared quite well at the Ballpark in Arlington in recent years. Since the beginning of 2005, the Bronx Bombers have gone 15-4 there.
Rangers: Feliz on a run
With 29 saves so far this season, Neftali Felix has the sixth-most for a rookie since the stat became official in 1969. He has converted 20 consecutive chances, the second-longest streak in team history. Only Francisco Cordero (21 in 2004) has saved more consecutive games in team history. Oakland's Andrew Bailey holds the record for consecutive saves by a rookie with 27 last season.
Mark Teixeira blasted his 26th home run on Monday, his fifth of the seven-game homestand. ... The Rangers did not homer on Sunday, snapping a four-game streak. The four-game homer streak matches a season high, last done on July 6-9. It also matches a season high on the road, done June 16-19 in Florida and Houston.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.