Commentary

Teixeira stays hot as July at the plate

After a slow start, slugger's finally in a groove -- just when the Yanks really need him

Updated: July 24, 2010, 11:39 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- For the record, Mark Teixeira hit career home runs No. 261 and 262 on Saturday afternoon.

And while the 262 home-run plateau doesn't have the same sex appeal or historical significance as A-Rod's chase for 600, a productive and potent Teixeira is crucial to the New York Yankees' success in the here and now.

With question marks suddenly surrounding four of the five spots in the Bombers' starting rotation, it looks like the offense is going to have to carry the load in the immediate future. And if Teixeira continues to tear through July, it only makes things easier on the rest of the lineup.

Hitting in front of A-Rod, Teixeira hit a solo home run in the fourth and a two-run shot in the fifth in the Yankees' 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals. He's now reached base in 40 straight games, essentially putting a horrendous April (.136 BA) in his rear-view mirror.

[+] EnlargeMark Teixeira
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesMark Teixeira hit career home runs Nos. 261 and 262, but they weren't enough to prevent the Yankees from losing to the Royals.

"When I was getting good pitches to hit early on, I wasn't hitting all of them. I wasn't making good enough contact," Teixeira said of his slow start. "But when you're feeling good, when you're making good contact, you're going to see good success."

The two home runs on Saturday didn't take any of the sizzle away from A-Rod's four at-bats. But surely most of the 48,138 on hand -- especially those bearing the brunt of the unbearable heat in the bleachers -- wished Teixeira's bombs had come courtesy of the next hitter in the lineup.

The Yankees first-baseman nearly gave Rodriguez, who finished 1-for-4, a fifth shot to reach 600 -- and hit a game-winning home run -- when it appeared that he beat Yuniesky Betancourt's throw to first on a slow ground ball with two outs in the ninth. But first-base ump Chad Fairchild punched Teixeira out. Had he reached, it would have loaded the bases for Rodriguez.

"Yeah, I was safe," Teixeira said without hesitation after the game. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Still, with two hits in five at-bats on Saturday, Teixeira raised his average to .261, tying his season-high. He was hitting .231 entering play on July 1.

"I just think it was a matter of time," Girardi said of Teixeira's recent success. "He's too good of a hitter not to hit; he's been tremendous in the month of July and that's really good for us. He's a huge part of our lineup."

Teixeira's rough first half was largely overshadowed because Yankee starters were so dominant prior to the All-Star break. But now, the Yanks will be counting on Teixeira to continue to produce as the healthy members of the starting rotation not named CC Sabathia have hit a rough patch.

Phil Hughes, who takes the mound in Sunday's series finale against Kansas City, allowed nine hits and six runs in his last start against the Angels. Javier Vazquez didn't exactly inspire confidence by nearly coughing up a six-run lead on Wednesday against the Angels. A.J. Burnett has been inconsistent all season and Girardi wouldn't even guarantee that Sergio Mitre will make his next scheduled start on Thursday in Cleveland after the right-hander allowed five earned runs on seven hits in just 4 1/3 innings pitched against the Royals on Saturday. Andy Pettitte, arguably the Bombers' most consistent starter this season, is out for at least the next three weeks with a left groin strain.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Teixeira seems to be getting hot at the right time. He is hitting .389 this month (28-for-72) with 21 RBI and 13 walks in 19 games. And 16 of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases (nine doubles, seven home runs).

After the game, Teixeira wished he'd eeked out one more hit on Saturday to give A-Rod a chance to hit with the bases loaded against Royals' closer Joakim Soria.

"Yeah, bases loaded, chance to win the game," he said. "Six hundred home runs, story book ending for the game."

Didn't happen.

No 600 for A-Rod on Saturday. But 261 and 262 for Teixeira were just as important for the Yankees.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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