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subway series

This Is the Second-Best Team in the American League?

It's not a good sign when even the most encouraging aspect of the Yankees' weekend — Javier Vazquez's terrific outing and National League homecoming on Friday — ends with an injury. (He's scheduled to start again Thursday, pending a bullpen session tomorrow.) Because on Saturday and Sunday — just like they did against Tampa and Boston last week — they rallied in the ninth, only to fall short twice more. When you're in the kind of slump they're in — they've lost five of six and ten of fifteen — those comebacks always seem to fall short, don't they?

We'll look at the weekend from a Mets perspective later this morning, but from the Yankees' point of view, there wasn't much to like. Mark Teixeira continues to hit like it's April (in hindsight, it seems silly to think he'd suddenly hit simply because the calendar turned to May); CC Sabathia badly lost an intriguing battle of lefty aces last night (whatever Dave Eiland told him during his mound visits, it was awfully counterproductive); and they stranded far too many runners on base for a team that, despite all the losing, still has the second-best record in the American League. (We'll give them the tie-breaker over Minnesota because they beat the Twins two out of three last weekend, and also because who's going to stop us?)

For all of the Yankees' injuries and slumps, they've lived and died all year with their starting pitching. Over the first month of the season, four out of their five pitchers got on a roll at the same time, and they won an awful lot of games. Now four of those five starters have cooled off, roughly at the same time. We'd love to blame their rough patch on the lack of depth that's forced the likes of Randy Winn and Kevin Russo into more playing time than anyone would prefer, but it's not really their fault. After digging themselves a CC Sabathia–size hole last night, the Yankees had the situation they wanted: A-Rod at bat, with a chance to complete the rally and maybe take the rubber game of the series. Sometimes the other team's best is just better than yours, and if this weekend could be summed up in just a few words, those would be the ones.

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Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images