Yankees can't underestimate Astros, White Sox

The Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki celebrates with teammates after

The Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki celebrates with teammates after the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug. 17, 2014 in St Petersburg, Fla. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Iskowitz

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A 2-3 trip isn't anything to get excited about, but as the Yankees pointed out Sunday, it could have been worse.

Beating the Rays on Saturday and Sunday didn't save the Yankees' season, but it did put them in a better position to take advantage of the week ahead, one that brings opportunity.

The Yankees begin a three-game series Tuesday night at the Stadium against the Astros (52-73), who are trying to stay ahead of the last-place Rangers in the AL West. Then come three games against the White Sox (59-66), who are ahead of only the Twins in the AL Central.

The Yankees (63-59) are 71/2 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles and three games behind the Tigers and Mariners for the second wild card.

So they aren't in position to look at the next six days as a step down in the schedule. The way their offense has been much of the season, they've spent plenty of time looking like the junior varsity themselves.

"Every game is very important now,'' Mark Teixeira said. "I don't even know who we're playing, but I know we need to win games and try to make up some ground.''

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Said Joe Girardi: "I think every week is a big week. What is there, seven weeks left? Every week's big.''

Houston appears to be an easier opponent than those the Yankees have faced in recent weeks. The young Astros are far from elite but clearly haven't quit, most recently winning two of the final three games against the Red Sox.

"You look up, they scored seven runs one day, eight runs the next, I mean they're swinging the bats, so it's not [easy],'' Girardi said.

David Robertson said of the Astros and White Sox: "It doesn't matter what their records are. We know any team that plays us is going to play us hard and try to win every ballgame. So we have to take every game seriously.

"There's no slacking off at this point in the season,'' said Robertson, who is 33-for-35 in save chances this season. "You have to come to the field prepared, ready to play and grind out a win no matter how you do it.''

The way the Yankees did it over the weekend was typical of many of their victories this season: strong pitching and just enough offense.

"We've continued to pitch great,'' Brett Gardner said, "and hopefully, this week our offense can kind of pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.''

Gardner has been one of the Yankees' few consistent batters this season, hitting 15 home runs, second on the club to Teixeira's 20, and slugging .448, which leads the regulars.

The leftfielder said it's not too late for the offense to kick it into gear and perform to the expectations set for the Yankees during spring training.

"I feel like we've got a team that's better than what we've shown,'' Gardner said. "Offensively, we've been disappointing, and hopefully, we can do well at home this week. We're not where we'd like to be at, but we're not far away, either. A good week and things can turn around in a hurry. We have to stay positive and keep working hard.

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"Hopefully, our pitchers will keep throwing the ball well and I think we'll come together and score some runs. Hopefully, it's not too little, too late.''

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