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yankees

Natural Order Restored: Mariano Rivera Closes Out Comeback Win

Anyone concerned that the Yankees could again face Cliff Lee in a playoff series — this time perhaps in a five-game division series — can look at last night's 7-6 Yankees win in one of two ways. You could worry that Lee didn't have his best stuff — for Lee, that means getting roughed up in the seventh, but still striking out eleven with no walks — and the Rangers still found themselves in a position to win the game until the ninth inning. Or you can note that Lee — at least on a 99-degree day in August — is mortal, and that the Rangers bullpen, including their closer, can be beaten as well. Either way, if the two close games this week are any indication, Yankees-Rangers would be a hell of an October matchup.

George W. Bush couldn't have enjoyed what he saw from his front-row seat: a Yankees team coming off a dispiriting loss the night before, on the verge of being swept by a team they'd surely like to measure themselves against, rallying after falling behind 6-1 to Cliff Lee. Some other encouraging signs: Both Lance Berkman and the ice-cold Brett Gardner played a key role in the comeback; Marcus Thames — filling Mark Teixeira's spot in the batting order — played the hero role with an eighth-inning home run and the game-winning hit an inning later; and Mariano Rivera rebounded from his first-ever Arlington loss by escaping trouble he created for himself by allowing a leadoff triple. (Not encouraging: Javier Vazquez's night. But let's not dwell on that.)

The Yankees, who have now played three straight one-run ballgames, next travel to Kansas City for four games beginning tonight — the first of three series against teams currently under .500. For a fourth straight game, they'll face a lefty starter, this time in Bruce Chen. But they'll counter with one of their own: CC Sabathia, looking for his fifteenth win.

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Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images