The New York Yankees have a demanding week ahead of them, but they can lift a lot of the pressure with a win in their next game.
New York tries again to clinch its 14th playoff berth in 15 years when it visits the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.The Yankees (95-55) can secure at least the wild card with either a victory over the Angels (89-60) on Monday or a Texas loss at Oakland. New York, which also has its sights set on its first AL East title since 2006, knows it needs to play better than it has recently.The Yankees, who lead Boston by five games in the East, lost two of three at Seattle over the weekend to drop to 4-5 in their last nine games. They lost 7-1 on Sunday, squandering a chance to clinch a playoff spot after Joba Chamberlain gave up seven runs in three innings and the offense managed only five hits.Mark Teixeira had three of those hits, including two doubles, continuing his recent hot hitting. He's batting .446 with 16 RBIs in his last 12 games.Teixeira and the Yankees would have preferred to have taken care of business over the weekend, especially given their struggles in Anaheim. They've lost eight of their last nine games there, including all three this season. After this set, New York hosts Boston in the final regular-season series between the bitter rivals."We have not played very well the last eight or nine games," manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees' official Web site. "These are important games this week, and we know that. ... As I've said all along, I think this thing is going to go down to the end."The Angels, meanwhile, moved closer to clinching the AL West after winning two of three against Texas. They are 7 1/2 games ahead of the Rangers after a 10-5 victory Sunday. Howie Kendrick had three hits and drove in five runs while Garry Matthews Jr. added three RBIs on two hits."It's important to reach our first goal and today got us closer to that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "To beat the team chasing you is a positive."Scioscia and the Angels look to continue their success against Andy Pettitte (13-6, 4.14 ERA), who makes his first start in 10 days Monday.The Yankees skipped Pettitte's turn in the rotation last week because of tiredness in his pitching shoulder. The 37-year-old veteran lasted five innings against Baltimore on Sept. 11, allowing three runs but not getting the decision in a 10-4 loss.Pettitte has thrown 178 1/3 innings this year after pitching at least 200 in each of the previous four seasons."I'll be happy when I get through Monday and don't have any problems," he said. "I want to stand on the mound in the sixth and seventh inning and still feel strong, and they have to come pull me."The left-hander, who is 0-1 with a 9.90 ERA in two starts against the Angels this season, hasn't beaten the Angels since Aug. 22, 2007. In five starts since, he's pitched through the sixth inning only once.The Angels will counter with Joe Saunders (13-7, 4.75), who has won four straight decisions but gave up five runs -- two earned -- in 5 2/3 innings of his club's 9-8 loss to Boston on Wednesday.Saunders is 1-1 with a 7.97 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. He allowed five runs in five innings of a 10-6 home win July 10, failing to earn a decision.Alex Rodriguez is 5 for 10 with two doubles and a home run against Saunders, while Derek Jeter is 5 for 11 with a home run.