Yankees begin tough stretch vs. Tribe

Yankees begin tough stretch vs. Tribe

The Yankees have done what they had to do to get back into the American League playoff race by leading the Major Leagues in wins since the All-Star break with a 20-8 record.

The Bombers now find themselves closing in on the American League Wild Card, but the real test is about to begin. Seventeen of the Yankees' next 20 games come against the Indians, Tigers, Red Sox and Angels -- all teams that are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

"It will be a tough stretch," said outfielder Johnny Damon. "They are teams we have to go through to make the playoffs. ... But we're a very good team. We knew that coming out of spring. Unfortunately, it took us a little time to get things rolling, but we all feel pretty good about how we have been playing."

At the beginning of June, the Yankees were six games below .500. They've slowly started working their way up the standings, though, and are now in a position where they can control their own destiny.

"We feel like it's in our hands right now," manager Joe Torre said. "It's up to the way we play from here on out. We certainly know we haven't done anything yet, other than feel much better about ourselves than we did earlier in the year."

The first test will come when the Yankees open a three-game set against the Indians on Friday night. Rookie right-hander Phil Hughes will get the call for the first game of the series.

Hughes allowed six runs on seven hits in his last start against the Royals. His biggest mistake of the game came when he surrendered a two-run homer to Royals outfielder David DeJesus.

The 21-year-old said he's looking forward to the challenge of facing one of the league's top lineups, but he's not going to let it affect his game.

"I'm not going to approach it any differently than any other start," Hughes said. "I've just got to be aggressive, attack the strike zone and not fall behind in the count. If I'm able to do that, I think we'll be all right."

The Indians will counter with right-hander Fausto Carmona. Carmona allowed just one run on five hits in his last outing against the Twins, but he was forced to take a no-decision because of a lack of run support.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Phil Hughes (1-1, 5.87 ERA)
Hughes has only made one start on the road this season. In that outing against the Rangers on May 1, the rookie right-hander picked up the win after pitching 6 1/3 no-hit innings before leaving with an injury.

CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (13-6, 3.17 ERA)
Carmona is 0-0 with a 2.89 ERA in four career appearances against New York.

Player to watch
Second baseman Robinson Cano has been on an absolute tear over his last 25 games. He is hitting .453 (43-for-95) with nine doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 28 RBIs.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WCBS, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 7-7, 4.66) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 10-4, 4.13), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 8-7, 4.00) at Indians (Jake Westbrook, 3-6, 5.00), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Roger Clemens, 4-5, 4.00) vs. Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 7-4, 3.22), 7:05 p.m. ET

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