Clemens, who on Saturday is scheduled to make his first start of the season, probably will be greeted by a more content group than had he returned sooner. The Yankees, winners of three straight and six of eight after Thursday's 10-3 win at the White Sox, seem to be putting all phases of the game together.
"It always starts with pitching and defense, and our defense has been much better, and we're getting the timely hits," said Alex Rodriguez, who hit his 15th career grand slam to help manager Joe Torre win his 2,000th game.
"It's getting better. We just have to continue to build on it," Rodriguez added.
Bobby Abreu, who has hit in seven consecutive games, had a go-ahead, two-run double in Thursday's win. Torre believes Abreu and Rodriguez seem to be harmonizing the middle of the Yankees' order.
"The middle of that lineup," Torre said. "Bobby makes it tougher to pitch to Alex because there are men on base. You put men on base in front of Alex, and the pitchers can't be as stingy. That's a part of Alex reclaiming his spot."
The Pirates, a National League team, come in as a mystery -- which doesn't sit well with the man of 2,000 wins.
"But it's the same for their side, too," Torre said.Pitching matchup
PIT: LHP Tom Gorzelanny (6-3, 2.53)
Gorzelanny looked to be heading toward an easy outing on Sunday, giving up only three hits and one walk through six shutout innings. But he ran into trouble in the seventh, yielding three earned runs on four hits and a walk. He eventually took a no-decision in the Pirates' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (3-4, 2.96 ERA)
Pettitte had a rare non-quality start in his most recent appearance, a no-decision in a 6-5 win against Boston. He allowed five runs and seven hits over 4 1/3 innings -- his shortest outing in more than a month. Pettitte had put together six consecutive quality starts before that, and his ERA had dropped to 2.51 after his May 29 start. Player to watch
A-Rod, especially if it comes down to the ninth inning, where he is batting .529 with six homers and 16 RBIs. On the Internet
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WCBS AM 880 and WQBU FM 92.7 (Español) Up next
Saturday: Pirates (Paul Maholm, 2-8, 5.35) at Yankees (Roger Clemens, 2007 debut), 1:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Pirates (Shawn Chacon, 2-0, 3.26) at Yankees (Tyler Clippard, 3-1, 3.60), 1:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday: D-backs (Brandon Webb, 6-3, 3.13) at Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 5-4, 3.73), 7:05 p.m. ET
David Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.