Pineda on the hill as Yankees open second half

Michael Pineda

Good evening from Yankee Stadium, where the end of the All-Star break is leading us into the resumption of the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. Right-hander Michael Pineda is on the mound for the Yankees, with knuckleballing right-hander Steven Wright going for the Red Sox.

To refresh your memory, the Yankees (44-44) are coming off three wins in a four-game series against the Indians in Cleveland. This is the eighth time this season that the Yankees have sat exactly at the .500 mark, and if they’re serious about making a push for the postseason, it needs to be the last.

They enter play tonight 7 ½ games back in the American League East and haven’t been two games over .500 since (gulp) April 12, when they were 4-2. This 10-game stretch will be crucial to any playoff hopes; they see tough competition in the Red Sox, Orioles, Giants and Astros. 23 of their next 26 games will be played against teams currently over .500.

“I think this is really important,” Joe Girardi said. “You look at the teams that we’re playing, how many division games that we have in the second half, and I think that it’s important that we get off to a good start in the second half to start making up ground as time moves forward here.”

“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

The Alex Rodriguez-first base experiment, abandoned in May of last season, now seems to be back in play. A-Rod has been relegated to a part-time designated hitter, seeing time mostly against left-handed pitching, and so he worked out at first base over the All-Star break and again on Friday afternoon. Remember, the Yankees have been reluctant to play Mark Teixeira more than three or four days in a row because of his balky right knee.

Nathan Eovaldi will return to the rotation on Tuesday against the Orioles, following 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball in two relief appearances. Eovaldi had posted a 9.20 ERA in six starts before going to the bullpen. Ivan Nova will start Monday’s series opener against Baltimore.

THEY SAID IT

“Last year, we were not able to get him comfortable. … He came to us, and I’m not going to deny a player a chance in that sense. The fact that he wants to try to get comfortable is a good sign.” – Girardi, on A-Rod playing first base.

STAT SO?
Didi Gregorius has an extra-base hit in five straight games. If he gets an extra-base hit, he become just the third Yankees shortstop in the past 100 years to have an extra-base hit in six straight games. He’d join Derek Jeter (1999) and Phil Rizzuto (1951).

ON THIS DATE
July 15, 2008: Yankee Stadium plays host to the All-Star Game, with the AL defeating the NL, 4-3, in 15 innings. The four hour, 50 minute game is the longest Midsummer Classic ever played. (And I was there to write the gamer.)

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