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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Yankees' momentum-building victories come at expense of two beaten-up teams

Chase Headley of the Yankees celebrates his 14th-inning,

Chase Headley of the Yankees celebrates his 14th-inning, game-winning base hit against the Texas Rangers with manager Joe Girardi at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Shortly before four o'clock Thursday the Yankees moved into a tie with the Mariners for the second American League wild card by virtue of a brisk 4-2 win over the Rangers. Later that same night, at 10:10, Seattle was scheduled to host the division-leading Orioles, a matchup with obvious postseason implications for Joe Girardi's crew.

Playoff fever? Not quite. When asked about staying up for the game at Safeco Field, Girardi made it sound as if he'd tune in to save himself the Ambien.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll put it on," Girardi said. "It will help me go to sleep."

Between Girardi using West Coast games as a cure for insomnia, and the Nationals' Anthony Rendon saying he prefers watching the History Channel over the sport he plays for a living, it's no wonder Major League Baseball is losing eyeballs to "Epic Rap Battles of History" on YouTube.

Or maybe, like the rest of us, the Yankees are just exhausted after a series win over the Rangers that seemed way more difficult than it should have been. Taking three of four from any team is not easy, but Texas looked every bit like the worst team in baseball during this week's visit to the Bronx.

The Yankees committed five errors, including three by pitcher Shane Greene, and lost Monday's opener. The next night, they needed 14 innings to score in a 2-1 win. On Washout Wednesday, the Yankees capitalized on their own grounds crew's inability to unspool a tarp in a timely fashion. Fortunately, they were up 2-1 when torrential rain turned the infield into the Bronx River.

Much like the lights going out, or some other stadium malfunction, ultimately the home team is responsible, so the Yankees shouldn't have benefited from Wednesday's tardy tarp follies. The game should have been suspended at that point, an argument the Rangers made with the commissioner's office, but to no avail.

"They could have done it," Texas manager Ron Washington said Thursday morning. "They have the power to do it. Because the game was nowhere near over. It wasn't like the weather wouldn't allow us to go back out there and play. They couldn't get the tarp on."

"That's why the field got screwed up. We raised hell but they said there wasn't a precedent for it."

Rain-shortened games are a rarity. But the Yankees have had two in a two-week span, and they're now .500 against the Orioles, Rangers and Mother Nature.

The Yankees are 6-1 since the All-Star break, a momentum-building stretch -- even if it's come at the expense of two beaten-up teams such as the Reds and Rangers.

Some of that credit goes to Brian Cashman, whose trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley have made an immediate impact. McCarthy, who on the surface looked like a lost cause in Arizona, has turned out to be Exhibit A for the sabermetric crowd by rebounding with a 1.45 ERA in three starts since coming to the Yankees. He plowed through an early high pitch count Thursday to finish with six strong innings and the Yankees' bullpen, as it usually does, made McCarthy's effort stick.

"That's a dangerous weapon to have," McCarthy said. "When they can come in and lock things down like that."

Thanks to the Headley acquisition, the Yankees could now have someone else besides Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to lean on. Headley has contributed in all three games since arriving during the second inning Tuesday night -- and they've desperately needed it.

If Mark Teixeira can't return soon from a strained back muscle - the team expects to made a DL decision Friday - Headley becomes even more important in the months ahead.

But the Yankees have survived this season by not looking too far ahead.

Next up is this weekend's AL East tussle with the Blue Jays. It's another chance to gain serious ground in the division -- if some can't stay awake long enough to keep an eye on what's happening out west.

"Look, it's baseball, and we're baseball people," Girardi said. "We know where we're at. But we know there's a long ways to go."

This week alone, with the odd twists and turns, felt like forever and the Yankees are tired. But after beating the teams they should beat, it's a good tired.

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