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Yanks' goal of series win within reach

Series win within reach for Yanks

NEW YORK -- The way the Yankees have played for the last month, at times it seemed like they would never go through another extended rough patch. Their starting pitching was exceptional, coupled with a lineup that was consistently living up to its billing.

Of course, to stay so hot for an entire season is a virtual impossibility. Eventually, every team needs to come down. That's what the Yankees are going through now. They have lost four of five, with the only win coming because of a gift error by Mets second baseman Luis Castillo on Friday night.

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As well as the Yankees played for a solid four-week stretch, that's how bad they have looked lately. And with Johan Santana, who is widely considered to be the best pitcher in all of baseball, on the mound on Sunday, the road is not getting easier. The Yankees will look to turn things around against the Mets at 1:05 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TBS, with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez in the broadcast booth.

"We haven't played too well," manager Joe Girardi said. "We haven't pitched, we haven't really hit a whole lot. Over this little five-game stretch, we haven't played very well. We had a chance to win some games, and we didn't.

"We struggled with runners in scoring position in Boston. Today, we didn't hit at all. It's been a combination. We've had starters not give us any distance. We just haven't played very well overall."

Santana is likely the last person the Yankees want to see when trying to snap out of a rut. He comes into the game at 8-3 with a 2.39 ERA, to go with 91 strikeouts in 79 innings. Santana, a lefty known most for his devastating changeup, is 4-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 10 career appearances (seven starts) against the Yankees.

Several Yankees have enjoyed some success against Santana in limited at-bats, particularly shortstop Derek Jeter, who is 8-for-23 (.348) against him lifetime. Hideki Matsui is 6-for-18 (.333), while Robinson Cano is 6-for-15 (.400).

That said, with Santana throwing for the Mets, the Bombers know they may be in store for a tough afternoon.

"It's a challenge, he's a great pitcher," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We'll work hard and try to get some hits off him, play good defense ourselves and see what happens."

"Good pitcher," left fielder Johnny Damon said. "We definitely have to be on our game. Hopefully, A.J. [Burnett] is on his game, too."

The Yankees have not lost two successive series since the beginning of May, when they were swept in short two-game series by the Red Sox and Rays from May 4-7. But now, the Yankees are in danger of having just that happen with a loss on Sunday.

In his postgame press conference, Girardi stressed the importance of simply winning series. That's what makes Sunday's contest against Santana and the crosstown rival Mets so pivotal.

"You set out to win every series," Girardi said. "Each team has a chance to do that tomorrow. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP A.J. Burnett (4-3, 4.89 ERA)
Burnett will be trying to rebound from one of the worst starts of his career, lasting just 2 2/3 innings in a 7-0 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday at Fenway Park. Burnett appeared too strong and unable to command his fastball, walking five and allowing five runs (three earned) in the start. As he makes his Subway Series debut, Burnett has still won two of his last three starts and is 2-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 16 career starts against the Mets, having last faced them in 2005.

NYM: LHP Johan Santana (8-3, 2.39 ERA)
Santana picked up his eighth win of the season despite allowing four home runs, which tied a career high. Santana gave up eight hits and five earned runs in seven-plus innings against the Phillies but contributed the game-tying double in the sixth inning. Lifetime, Santana is 4-1 against the Yankees with a 3.15 ERA in seven career starts. That includes a 3-0 mark and a 2.05 ERA in the Bronx, although those stats may be irrelevant in the new Yankee Stadium. Santana went 1-1 in two starts against the Yankees last season, giving up seven earned runs in 13 2/3 innings.

Tidbits
Brian Bruney pitched a 1-2-3 inning for Double-A Trenton on Saturday, throwing 12 pitches, eight for strikes. The Yankees have not yet announced when they will activate the right-hander, but it seems likely he will join the club Tuesday when it begins a three-game series at home against the Nationals. ... Damon said he did not suffer from the "fluttering eyes" on Saturday that kept him out of the lineup on Friday. Damon went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the game. ... Jeter has now reached base safely in 49 straight Interleague games, dating back to June 25, 2006, extending the longest such stretch in Interleague Play.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• YES, TBS

On radio
• WCBS 880, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Yankees (CC Sabathia, 5-4, 3.68) vs. Nationals (Shairon Martis, 5-1, 5.04), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 0-4, 14.34) vs. Nationals (John Lannan, 3-5, 3.51), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jared Diamond 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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