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Starters at center of Yankees' win streak

Starters at center of Yankees' win streak

NEW YORK -- Each game the Yankees have played lately has followed a nearly perfect script. The starter works into the seventh inning, the dominant relief corps of Phil Hughes and Phil Coke bridges the gap to the ninth and the seemingly indestructible Mariano Rivera closes it out. Nice and simple. Another Yankees win.

The formula has become so routine that the little blip against the Angels to finish the first half of the season almost seems like a mirage. New York was swept in that series but has won six straight games since. For Coke, the strangest part of the series in Anaheim was seeing back-to-back starters get chased in the fifth inning.

"It's almost a shock when somebody doesn't go seven," Coke said. "When we were in Anaheim, we had two straight days of 4 2/3 [innings]. It was a shock to me. It really was."

That's the way things have gone for the Yankees this past week. The much-hyped starting rotation, which was mostly inconsistent for the first three months of the season, has started to demonstrate its full potential.

The Yankees' starters have allowed three runs or fewer in each of the six games following the All-Star break and have worked at least six innings five times. The one man who didn't, newcomer Sergio Mitre, went 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday in his first appearance in the Majors since September 2007. Still, Mitre earned the win as the Yankees edged the Orioles, 6-4.

All told, New York's rotation is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA during its current six-game winning streak. Wednesday's star, A.J. Burnett, said there has been a friendly competition among the five starters, with each one wanting to exceed the performance from the game before.

"I do think they feed off each other," manager Joe Girardi said. "They don't want to be the one that stops the streak. They want to go out and throw well. They compete against each other, and to me, that's a great situation.

Burnett had one quibble with his manager's assessment. He stressed that nobody fears being the one who stops the streak. Rather, seeing the other starters succeed serves as a pick-me-up for whoever is pitching the next day.

"It's more about being inspired by the guy who throws before you," Burnett said. "You don't think about coming in and being the guy who loses it or breaks the streak. You just want to continue what the guy before you did."

Next comes CC Sabathia's turn, one day after Burnett's seven innings of two-run ball in Wednesday's 6-4 win, which completed a sweep of the Orioles. Sabathia will face New Jersey product Vin Mazzaro as the Yankees begin a four-game series with the A's. The series opener -- originally scheduled for April 20 before rain interfered -- was rescheduled for Thursday.

Sabathia is supposed to be the Yankees' best pitcher, so he's exactly the man they want to see on the mound. But the way things have gone this week, it doesn't seem to matter who's out there.

"It looks like it's contagious," Rivera said. "When your starters are pitching like that, every starter wants to do the same thing. That's what we've been doing. We feel like they're going to give us a good chance to win the game."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP CC Sabathia (9-6, 3.66 ERA)
In his next outing, Sabathia will look for his ninth victory in 12 decisions. The lefty came away a winner on Saturday against the Tigers, hurling seven scoreless innings while scattering five hits, walking three and striking out four. The lefty said he was too strong early in the start but eventually settled in, outdueling Justin Verlander.

OAK: RHP Vin Mazzaro (2-6, 4.09 ERA)
Mazzaro's last start didn't exactly go according to plan, as the rookie gave up eight runs on 10 hits in three-plus innings against the Angels. Four of the runs were unearned, though, as Oakland committed four errors -- one by Mazzaro. After winning his first two starts, Mazzaro is winless in his past seven, and he has a 6.75 ERA in his past four starts. The 22-year-old will hope for better luck -- and some better defense, too -- as he faces New York for the first time in his Yankee Stadium debut.

Tidbits
The Yankees have clinched a non-losing season series against the Orioles for the 12th straight year, dating back to 1998. ... Jorge Posada scored his 792nd career run on Wednesday, tying Hank Bauer for 19th on the Yankees' all-time list. ... Hughes' 20-inning scoreless streak is the longest such stretch by a Yankees reliever since Rivera posted 23 consecutive scoreless innings in 2005. Hughes has a 0.81 ERA in 16 relief outings this year. ... The Yankees enter Thursday's contest 20 games over .500 -- their best mark since the final day of the 2007 season.

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

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 5-2, 4.05) vs. Athletics (Brett Anderson, 5-7, 4.25), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 8-5, 4.62) vs. Athletics (Gio Gonzalez, 1-2, 9.33), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Sergio Mitre, 1-0, 4.76) vs. Athletics (Dallas Braden, 7-8, 3.40), 1:05 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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