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The Yankees Are in First Place All By Themselves

It's almost hard to believe that the Yankees, who on the whole have had a pretty terrific start to the season, hadn't been in first place by themselves since April 21. But such is life in the American League East, a division they share with Tampa Bay and Boston, the teams with the second and third best records in baseball. But while the Red Sox were busy spoiling Manny Ramirez's return to Fenway and the Rays were dropping two of three in Miami despite winning on Mini-Vuvuzela-Like-Instrument Night, the Yankees were cooling off the hottest team — as of Friday, at least — in all of baseball.

The recipe for the series win wasn't terribly complicated: stellar pitching and a few timely home runs. After dropping the opener Friday night — Javier Vazquez's biggest sin was not pitching deep enough into the game to keep Chan Ho Park away from the mound — Phil Hughes bested Mike Pelfrey on Saturday and CC Sabathia beat Johan Santana yesterday to earn a split of the season series against the Mets. (The bullpen would redeem itself, too, with three scoreless innings after allowing Friday's game to get out of hand.)

And though the 2010 Yankees haven't needed to rely on the home run, the long ball proved to be the difference this weekend, with Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson's home runs Saturday turning a 3–1 deficit into a 5–3 lead, and Teixeira's grand slam providing all the run support Sabathia would need yesterday, when he went eight shutout innings and could have potentially gone out for the ninth, if not for a rain delay.

The Yankees reward for a 3–3 week against the Phillies and Mets? Another series against a last-place team, this time in Arizona.

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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images