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All-Star Game has added significance for three players from first-place Yankees

The American League's Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and

The American League's Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Dellin Betances, of the New York Yankees, watch with children during the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Cincinnati. Credit: AP / John Minchillo

CINCINNATI - The three Yankees who made the American League All-Star team are, of course, thrilled to be here.

But with their club leading the AL East by 31/2 games at the break, there's a bigger picture to Tuesday night's game beyond the pageantry of the event.

"Hopefully we get the win," said Dellin Betances, an All-Star for a second straight season after posting a 1.53 ERA and, perhaps even more impressive, striking out 77 in 47 innings. "Obviously, playing for the Yankees, I want to get to the World Series and we know [Tuesday night] means home-field advantage [in the Series], and we play well at home."

Mark Teixeira is making his third All-Star appearance and first since 2009, his initial season with the Yankees.

"We had a good first half," said Teixeira, who entered the break with a .240/.350/.526 slash line, a team-best 22 homers and an AL-leading 62 RBIs. "We had ups and downs as all teams do, but I think we have a team to go into a really nice stretch here this second half of the season and hopefully make the World Series. That's the goal."

Teixeira, Betances and the Yankees' third All-Star representative, Brett Gardner, are a big reason the Yankees are where they are at the break. Each has provided his own compelling story lines.

Gardner helped keep the Yankees afloat when they lost Jacoby Ellsbury for nearly two months. He entered the break hitting .302 with a .377 on-base percentage and an impressive -- for a player known primarily for his speed -- .484 slugging percentage.

Gardner has 10 homers and 42 RBIs. He seems all but certain to smash his career highs in both categories -- 17 homers and 58 RBIs -- established last season.

"I still think of myself as an on-base guy," Gardner said of his power numbers this season. "But I think that more than anything, it's just focusing on using the whole plate, the whole field. I'm not trying to hit the ball over the fence, but if that comes, that's great."

Teixeira, in many ways, entered this season with just as many questions as did Alex Rodriguez, who is having a pretty good comeback season himself.

The first baseman turned 35 in April and, most significantly, had not experienced a healthy season since 2011.

Nagging injuries limited him to 123 games in 2012 and right wrist surgery cost him all but 15 games in 2013. Last year brought more nagging injuries, as well as lingering effects from the surgery, limiting Teixeira to 123 games. He managed to hit 22 homers but batted .216 with a .313 on-base percentage.

"In spring training, I felt very confident," Teixeira said. "There's two things, there's the health and there's the performance. I hadn't been healthy or performed in two years."

Betances, meanwhile, has shown that last season, when he burst on the scene as one of the sport's elite relievers, was no fluke.

He earned an All-Star bid last season but did not appear in the American League's 5-3 victory.

Betances said "no one owes me anything" but made it clear that his preference is to pitch at some point Tuesday night, something AL manager Ned Yost has indicated will happen.

"That would mean a lot more," Betances said. "Obviously, last year being here, that was unbelievable, but getting in the game would be something special."

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