Facing the club with baseball's worst record would seem to offer a major advantage for the New York Yankees, who are looking to improve their chances for a playoff berth.
Manager Joe Girardi doesn't view any opponent as a pushover, though, especially with the Texas Rangers sending Yu Darvish to the mound.The Yankees look to avoid a third straight defeat Monday night as they face Darvish and the slumping Rangers in the opener of a three-game set in Texas.New York (54-50) trails Baltimore by four games for the AL East lead and Toronto by one for the league's second wild-card spot after falling 5-4 to the Blue Jays on Sunday.Chase Headley hit his first homer since being acquired from San Diego on Tuesday, but the Yankees dropped the final two games of the series after winning seven of their previous eight overall."It's always a disappointment to lose," Derek Jeter said. "We don't go into the last two days worried about what we did in the last eight. You try to win every day."With the stretch run nearing and playoff races heating up, New York will take any advantage it can to keep pace. Though the Rangers (41-64) are having their troubles, Girardi still is approaching this series knowing that his team has to perform."People talk about when you're playing teams that are struggling, 'Is this a chance for you to move up?'" Girardi told MLB's official website. "Yeah, but you don't know how well they'll be playing when you get there. You could say that we were struggling a little bit. You want to try to take advantage of certain situations, but it really comes down to you have to outplay the other team."If you don't play well, no matter who you're playing, you're not going to win."That's usually true when opponents face Darvish (9-6, 2.92 ERA), though he hasn't had his best stuff lately. He took the loss in Wednesday's rain-shortened, 2-1 loss to the Yankees in five innings, allowing two runs in 4 1-3. The right-hander fell to 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA over his last four outings."I try not to think about it and just want to go deep in the game as much as possible," Darvish said.Darvish will get another crack at the Yankees, against whom he's 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in four career starts.David Phelps opposed Darvish in last week's contest, and he'll get the ball again looking to continue his solid stretch. Phelps (5-4, 3.77) is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA over his last five outings, giving up two or fewer earned runs in each start.The right-hander allowed one run in five innings against the Rangers, but he's just 1/3 with a 4.36 ERA in nine starts on the road with the Yankees dropping eight of them.He'll face a Texas team that has scored only 12 runs while losing five of six. It fell 9-3 to Oakland on Sunday despite a two-run homer from Adam Rosales and a solo shot from Adrian Beltre.Former Ranger Mark Teixeira has missed the last seven games with a left lat strain, but Girardi is hoping he can return at some point during this series."We'll re-evaluate where he is (Monday)," Girardi said. "Hopefully, he's a player for us pretty soon here."
Both of Derek Jeter's hits so far Monday have come on the first pitch. It's the second time this season he's had two hits in a game on the first pitch (June 12 at Mariners).
He's currently batting .423 (22/52) on the first pitch this season. That would be his highest BA on the first pitch since 2009 (.448).
Yu Darvish is getting batters to pull the ball 44.7 percent of the time this season, which is 4.5 percentage points above the league average among qualifying pitchers. On balls that are pulled by the batter, Darvish is allowing a slugging percentage of .783, the seventh highest among qualifying pitchers. Brett Gardner is slugging .815 when he pulls the ball, 182 points above the league average among qualifying batters.