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Yanks to face test from baseball's best

Yanks to face test from baseball's best

NEW YORK -- If the Yankees are indeed a playoff team, they will get a taste of October baseball when the Angels visit for a four-game series beginning on Thursday.

As July progressed, so did Anaheim's lead in the American League West. Owners of the best record in the AL, the Angels provide the Yanks with a look at a playoff-quality team 10 times the rest of the season. Eighteen percent of the Yankees' remaining schedule is against the Halos.

"Well, they're the best team in our league right now," said manager Joe Girardi. "They have the best record. They've played very well on the road. They've played very well at home. They do a lot of things right. They pitch, they hit, they play defense, they have team speed.

"They're an exciting team."

It's a club that recently got better, too.

With room to improve their offense, the Angels traded for the Braves' Mark Teixeira on Tuesday in exchange for Casey Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Stephen Marek. Before Wednesday, Anaheim ranked ninth in runs, 11th in on-base percentage and eighth in batting average in the AL.

"The way I see it, they traded a good player for a good player," Girardi said. "Obviously, you have a guy with a little bit more experience and more power and is a switch-hitter, which changes the dynamic a little bit for their club ... Teixeira's a great first baseman.

"He can do everything."

New York won't see pitcher Joe Saunders, but two of the game's top hurlers --- Ervin Santana and John Lackey -- are scheduled for the series. In the opener, Andy Pettitte will go for the Yanks, while Jon Garland takes the mound for the Angels.

"They're the team to beat right now," Johnny Damon said. "It's going to be a big test for us."

And there will be more tests to come.

"Obviously, we're going to have tough 10 games with them, and we're going to need to find a way to win series against them," Girardi said.

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (12-7, 3.76 ERA)
After a rocky first inning Saturday at Fenway, when he allowed two unearned runs, Pettitte settled down and yielded just a harmless solo homer to J.D. Drew over the next five innings to earn his seventh win in nine starts. He is 3-2 in July with a 3.03 ERA in five starts. Pettitte will look to continue his career success against the Angels, with a 12-6 record to go with a 4.02 ERA in 22 starts lifetime against the Halos. This is his first start this season against the Angels.

LAA: RHP Jon Garland (9-6, 4.30 ERA)
Garland pitched well enough to get the win in his last outing, but was buoyed by a huge offensive outburst that put up 11 runs on the Orioles. Garland, however, also allowed five runs and had trouble with the long ball as all five of those runs came via two home runs. Garland has been inconsistent this season, however, and hasn't been able to register wins in consecutive starts since April 17 and 23. Despite the two homers, the right-hander was able to shut down the O's from the second through the sixth innings, allowing just two hits in that stretch before he was pulled in the sixth. Garland is 6-2 on the road and has yet to face the Yankees this season.

Tidbits
With Bobby Abreu's double Wednesday, he tied five-time All-Star Andres Galarraga for the most by a Venezuelan player. ... The Yankees' three-run first inning Wednesday stopped a 27-run span in which they were tied or trailing. ... Alex Rodriguez's home run Wednesday was career No. 541 and his 41st all-time against Baltimore. He leads all active players for homers against the Orioles.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Yankees (Sidney Ponson, 6-2, 4.59) vs. Angels (Ervin Santana, 11-5, 3.57), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 13-7, 3.56) vs. Angels (Jered Weaver, 9-8, 4.11), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Darrell Rasner, 5-8, 4.92) vs. Angels (John Lackey, 9-2, 2.93), 1:05 p.m. ET

Willie Bans 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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