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Opportunistic Yanks hold off Angels

Opportunistic Yanks hold off Angels

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have built the best record in baseball and the game's best lineup with a whole lot of spites. In spite of unusually long slumps for Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, in spite of Alex Rodriguez's low power numbers and in spite of a parade of injuries to core players, the Yankees score more runs per game than any team in baseball.

And in Wednesday's 10-6 win over the Angels, they showcased just how potent they can be when things are clicking.

The top three hitters in the Yankees' order led an early onslaught against Angels starter Joel Pineiro, collecting eight hits in nine at-bats off the right-hander through the first four innings. Jeter and Teixeira, each having subpar seasons by their rather lofty standards, had three hits apiece. Jeter scored three times and Teixeira drove in three runs.

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In between, Nick Swisher had two knocks and scored a run.

"That's what Jeet and I try to do," Swisher said. "We just try to get on base. We've got those big boys behind us to drive us in. The way Tex is swinging the bat now, it's got a chance to be a lot of fun."

"It was completely the opposite," Pineiro said, referring to his April 14 victory at Yankee Stadium. "Everything was down that day, and everything was up today."

Prior to the Yankees' series finale against the Rays on Sunday, Jeter had three hits in his last 25 at-bats and had scored three runs. In the three games since, the leadoff man is 5-for-14 with five runs. Not coincidentally, the Yankees have crossed the plate 21 times in those three contests.

"He's made some minor adjustments and he's swinging the bat better, and that's a great sign," said manager Joe Girardi. "It's good to see everyone contributing at the top."

Jeter didn't elaborate much on his adjustments -- "nothing drastic," he said -- and attributed much of the difference to luck. He hit line drives at fielders last week and bloop singles into holes in this one.

"I don't necessarily change things just based off results," Jeter said. "When the results are there, you feel better. I'll enjoy my evening tonight."

Teixeira's turnaround has been more prolonged and more drastic. His 23 hits in 60 July at-bats are more than double the amount he accumulated during his usually tepid April and just two shy of the number of hits he had in 100 June at-bats. The first baseman has driven in 17 runs in 16 games this month.

"Any time you have three or four guys back-to-back like that swinging the bat well, you're able to put some runs up on the board," said Brett Gardner. "It was a good day for us. We needed to come out and score some runs."

The top of the order spurred the Yankees to a 6-0 lead, which almost wasn't enough for Javier Vazquez. Vazquez cruised through the first four innings, tossing just 37 pitches to record 12 outs. But starting with Juan Rivera's leadoff double in the fifth, he allowed six hits to his final eight batters, four of which went for extra bases. By the time Vazquez departed in the sixth following Hideki Matsui's two-run homer to right, it was a one-run game.

"I didn't think I had great stuff out there today, but I located well early," said Vazquez, who received the win despite his early exit. "I didn't locate as well later in the game."

Pitching with a six-run lead may have changed Vazquez's approach on the hill. Although he said the lead did not affect him, Vazquez did say he tried to be more aggressive once the Yankees broke the game open.

"When you have that type of lead and you get in some longer counts, the one thing you try to stay away from is walking people," Girardi said. "And that's when you can get away from what you do in a sense and become a one- or two-pitch pitcher instead of a four-pitch pitcher."

The win pushed Vazquez over .500 for the first time this season at 8-7 and gave him victories over all 30 Major League teams. Barry Zito and Jamie Moyer are the only other active pitchers to claim that achievement. And perhaps it was simply justice for the right-hander who had received just 3.34 runs of support per start -- a full two runs lower than the Yankees' average on the season.

The Bronx Bombers' bullpen turned in yeoman's work, submitting four innings of one-run ball. And Colin Curtis provided the highlight of the day in the seventh, when he launched his first career home run -- a three-run shot to right during an at-bat he began in an 0-2 hole because Gardner had been ejected by home-plate umpire Paul Emmel. Curtis' homer came on the heels of a Juan Miranda solo shot in the same inning and gave the Yankees a five-run lead.

"That was the thrill of a lifetime," said Curtis, who stumbled his way out for a curtain call from the Yankee Stadium faithful.

It was also a symbol of a day when everything went right for the Yankees' offense, from the leadoff man in Jeter right down to the pinch-hitter in Curtis.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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