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Pregame Notebook: "Without hope, there's nothing"

Whitley on the hill Wednesday as HOPE Week welcomes Friends of Jaclyn
06/18/2014 5:14 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Derek Jeter has been hot at the plate, recording 12 hits in his last 27 at-bats.(AP)
Fresh off manager Joe Girardi's 600th win as Yankees skipper, the Bronx Bombers will try to rally behind rookie Chase Whitley tonight in the second game of a three-game set against the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.

The Yankees will be facing Jays ace Mark Buehrle (10-2, 2.28 ERA), who sits just one win behind Tuesday's star, Masahiro Tanaka, for the AL lead and is third behind Tanaka and Scott Kazmir in ERA. But they have some math on their side; the Yankees are 5-1 in Whitley's six starts this year and 22-9 overall in games started by their three rookie hurlers, and Tuesday's 3-1 win was their 14th straight conquest of the Jays here at Yankee Stadium.

If Whitley, who is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA, can continue his hot start, the Yankees could be in fine position to win the series tonight. They are an MLB-best 20-11 in games decided by two runs or less this season and 35-7 when holding their opponent to four or less - and the bullpen has been a big part of that, leading the league with 254 strikeouts in 215 1/3 innings this year.

Behind Whitley, the lineup leads off with Brett Gardner but heats up with Derek Jeter, who is 12-for-27 (.444) with two doubles, three RBI, seven runs scored and a .467 on-base percentage over the team's last seven games. The Captain has had multi-hit outings in five of those games, and he will look to continue that torrid pace tonight.

As important as the game on the field is tonight, what's going on around it is just as important to the Yankees, who are celebrating Day 2 of their annual HOPE Week today. Wednesday's spotlight is being shined on the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which pairs children with brain tumors with high school, college, or professional sports teams to allow them to become honorary members of the club.

Earlier this afternoon, three local youngsters - 12-year-old Ryan Tucker, 11-year-old Sean Callahan, and four-year-old Quinn Ostergren - were "signed" for the day by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, with Yankees union rep David Robertson overseeing the proceedings and honorary agent Shawn Kelley surely getting his newest (and only) clients the best deal possible.

"It's always my job as GM to go out and find the best talent available, and today I'm proud to announce that I have signed these three to contracts to be part of the Yankees," Cashman beamed at the press conference honoring the trio.

They may only be here for one day, but as part of HOPE Week, these three Friends of Jaclyn will leave a life-long impression on Girardi.

"I've always said that without hope there's nothing, and I think that if we can take some time and help people who are burdened or going through difficult circumstances, and take their mind off things and give them something to look forward to, I think that's extremely important," the skipper said. "The great thing is that we do it as an organization, and that thrills me.

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