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Baby Bombers energize Yankees

Wang, Cano, Cabrera, Duncan inject life into veteran team
08/03/2007 11:14 PM ET
By Jennifer Royle / YESNetwork.com

A-Rod was a target in Toronto. (AP)
NEW YORK — The flashbulbs were again in full effect Friday night at Yankee Stadium, but not only was Alex Rodriguez homer-less for the ninth consecutive game, the cameras captured the usual excitement and yet another offensive surge from the red-hot Yankees. In fact, for a team that was once 14 games back in the division, they sure have found a knack for making winning look easy.

Jon Bon Jovi was on hand for the festivities, or lack there of, but even he wouldn't be able to write a slow ballad that would make the night's highlight package less exciting. Rodriguez and the legendary rocker had a personal exchange in the dugout before the game, but the musician failed to be a good luck charm for the third baseman, who's been stuck on 499 home runs for what seems to be an eternity.

If the Yankees want to continue to make a serious run for the Wild Card and keep their eyes feasted on the division, they must win the games started by their ace, Chien-Ming Wang, especially after they watched their so-called "savior" Roger Clemens get spanked by the dreadful Chicago White Sox Thursday afternoon.

In fact, Clemens has been overshadowed lately by players such as Shelley Duncan and Andy Phillips. That will give you an idea of just how much everyone on the roster is contributing. They earned such a win on Friday night against Kansas City, winning 7-1 over the Royals in front of another anxious crowd awaiting A-Rod's milestone swing that will send him further into baseball history. But with the team having won 10 of their last 14 games and four of their last five, nobody seems to care when the money ball will sail out of the park.

"Alex is great," said Joe Torre. "He's there, I'm fine. The home run is going to come by nature of the fact that he's playing the game of baseball and not trying to hit a home run."

Right now, A-Rod's 500th home run would be the cherry on top of a salvaged season as the Yankees continue to click on all cylinders, going 16-7 since the All-Star break. Wang was his usual dominating self, allowing one run over seven innings of work to earn his 13th win of year. The Taiwanese right-hander has won 10 of his last 11 decisions and has not allowed a home run in nearly 50 innings — the true makings of an ace.

"He's been amazing over the past two years and hopefully he continues to pitch as well as he did tonight," said Johnny Damon of Wang. "He was great."

After having their share of slump time, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera — who matched his season high with three hits — hit for a combined 5-for-8 with Cano hitting his third home run in four games. Cano is batting .462 in his last 20 games.

"They give us a great deal of energy," Torre said. "It's like they're playing a game of choose 'em." These kids just have confidence in what they're doing and the pressure doesn't bother them. (Cabrera) just hits in that lineup so well."

"Robinson Cano is definitely lining himself up to win a Gold Glove," Damon said. "He's the best I've seen in a very long time. Hopefully he gets a lot of consideration."

Duncan contributed two of the Yankees' hits, but unlike Cano and Cabrera may not want to get comfortable being the fan favorite in the Bronx as Jason Giambi is scheduled to return to the team when they open a three-game series in Toronto next Monday. Torre, however, said he hasn't given the pending roster move any thought because it will not be an easy one.

"I've always liked (Duncan's) at-bats... more than I ever thought I would," Torre said.

"I'm ready to play every single day," Duncan said. "I don't know if I'm going to be in the lineup every day but I'm ready. That's how I prepare and that's how I think. If they want to use me a different way, then I'll be ready in that way. Preparation is the biggest key when you're in a situation like mine and I'm prepared."

Wondering who will replace Giambi is the least of the Yankees' worries right now. In fact, although it will be a personally emotional decision for Torre, it's one any manager would love to have. With Phil Hughes scheduled to make his return Saturday afternoon — Jeff Karstens returned Thursday from his three-month stint on the disabled list — Torre also has no shortage of pitchers as they head down the stretch and fight for their place in the postseason.

"It's somebody different every night," Damon said. "And that's what makes good teams go."

Jennifer Royle is an editorial producer for YESNetwork.com. She can be reached at jennifer.royle@mlb.com.
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