The Yankees have started well against three teams that figure to provide the toughest competition in the American League -- Boston, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. But Texas is off to a 5-4 start and looks very solid, especially when it comes to pitching.

After nine games, the Rangers' 2.67 staff ERA is the best in the majors, and they have held opponents to a major-league low .205 batting average and .312 slugging percentage. Over the past four games, Texas pitchers have surrendered only six earned runs for a 1.50 ERA in that span. Their starters have thrown at least 100 pitches in six straight games, and they've completed at least seven innings five times in nine games. Their starters also have allowed one run or less six times.

At the same time, outfielder Nelson Cruz is tearing it up at the plate. Cruz leads the major leagues with six home runs, 34 total bases, and a 1.063 slugging percentage. His 12 RBI are tops in the AL. Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero also is off to a hot start in the cleanup spot, batting .405 with a .514 slugging percentage, one homer and four RBI. As for who's not hot, leadoff man Julio Borbon was rested last game after starting the season with a .103 batting average and matching on-base percentage.

Thanks to impressive work by the starting pitchers, Texas has led in all nine games. But the Rangers have lost three times when leading after the seventh inning. They were 77-6 in that situation all last season but are 3-3 now. Five of their nine games have been decided in the winner's final at bat.

Yankees Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each have hit safely in the first nine games of the season. Cano leads the AL with six multi-hit games and has a .395 batting average with nine runs scored, four home runs and nine RBI.

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Catcher Jorge Posada needs two hits to reach the 1,500 plateau, making him the fourth Yankees catcher to achieve that mark along with Yogi Berra (2,148), Bill Dickey (1,969) and Thurman Munson (1,558).

The Yankees have scored a minimum of three runs in all nine games, and they have gone error-free in the past seven. With support like that, the pitchers have no excuses.