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In with the old... and the new

Rookies and veterans contributing big to Yanks' postseason charge
08/19/2007 6:17 PM ET
By Jennifer Royle / YESNetwork.com

Chien-Ming Wang survived to earn his 14th win.(AP)
NEW YORK — The talk around Yankeeland lately has been all about the rookies, the rookies and then the new rookies. But this weekend, during a crucial four-game series against the Tigers where both teams are teetering on the brink of October baseball and golfing, the veterans stepped up and stole their share of the spotlight.

That's not to say Phil Hughes' effort or Edwar Ramirez and Sean Henn's four scoreless innings combined on Wednesday against the Orioles have gone forgotten, not to mention Joba Chamberlain's scoreless ninth on Friday night. But down the stretch, in the midst of yet another hunt for the Wild Card or Division Championship, the Yankees continue rely on those they trust the most. Those who have proven they can get the job done, those with impressive track records in pinstripes and those who are more than willing to pass the baton to the Hugheses and Chamberlains of the Yankees' future for the sake of the team.

"They've come in and been doing a lot of things well, talking about Chamberlain and Ramirez," said Jorge Posada. "They've come in throwing strikes and there's been lot of good things to see. Everybody's pulling for them."

With a rotation full of vets and a bullpen consisting of rookies — proving to be an effective combination — concluding Sunday's 9-3 win, the Yankees took an impressive three of four from the Tigers as they continue their impressive quest for the postseason.

Andy Pettitte stopped the bleeding — a three-game losing streak — Friday night with a gutsy eight-inning outing that held Gary Sheffield and the Tigers to just one run. His friend Roger Clemens built off that momentum with a solid performance Saturday afternoon to earn his fifth win of the year. And on Sunday, Chien-Ming Wang, who didn't have his best stuff but gave the Yankees a chance to win, closed out the series by allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings of work.

"Andy pitched a (heck) of a game, Rocket (Clemens) threw a good game yesterday and Wang threw a (heck) of a game today," Posada said. "We have to keep doing that... pitching well. Today, Wang threw his sinker for a strike. He kept the ball down and had a very good slider. We used it a lot."

"He struggled today because he had too much on his plate," said Joe Torre. "His stuff was good, he kept the ball down, he gets people out, but I think he just needs to get back to where he as just going after people.

After Johnny Damon gave the Yankees the lead with a solo home run in the sixth - his seventh of the season - the rookies showcased their talent. Chamberlain retired the Tigers in order in the seventh, preserving the lead and showing Yankees fans what the future holds for the franchise: a young, dominating pitcher with the same promise Mariano Rivera showed in 1996.

Ramirez then struck out the side in the eighth and retired the Tigers in order in the ninth, silencing the intimidating Detroit bats and leading the Yankees to their third consecutive win that put them one step closer to extending their season. With that two-inning performance, Ramirez recorded his first Major League save, and walked away with the game ball and the lineup card.

"When I come in, I have a lot of confidence," Ramirez said.

"I'm starting to get in the routine of things and understanding what my role is right now," said Chamberlain, who is on a strict schedule to pitch one inning followed by a day of rest. "We're doing a great job in the bullpen and the starters are giving us great innings, so it's been great just keeping it together."

"Somebody with this limited experience, I can't remember in my experience anything like him," Torre said of Chamberlain. "Not only that he throws hard, but the fact that he can make pitches. That's the more impressive thing. He's certainly not afraid to challenge people."

The Yankees have a tough schedule ahead. They play three games in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels, resume their battle with the Tigers in a four-game set in MoTown and host division rival Boston in a three-game series at home with the hopes of gaining ground in the East. Everything clicking on all cylinders for the Yankees, and if they can enter the Red Sox series with the same momentum that's helped reduce their division deficit to just four games, they have every reason to envision winning their 10th straight AL East Title.

"It's going to be a nice plane ride for us," Damon said. "Winning three games to Detroit is no small task. We're playing very well and we're playing with a lot of confidence."

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