Yankees-Athletics Preview

While the New York Yankees are looking to use this road trip to

pad their lead atop the AL East, Alex Rodriguez has been using it

to move closer to a major milestone.

Rodriguez continues his pursuit of 600 homers on Wednesday night

when the Yankees try to complete their first three-game road sweep

of the Oakland Athletics in over five years.

New York (52-31) is playing its final set of games on the West

Coast in this seven-game trip. The Yankees are two games ahead of

Tampa Bay and 3 1/2 in front of Boston in the division.

Rodriguez was the catalyst to Tuesday’s 6-1 victory with his

55th multihomer game, bringing his career home run total to 597. He

hit his third grand slam of the year and 21st overall in the third

inning to move within two of all-time leader Lou Gehrig, and added

a solo homer in the sixth.

“I’m looking at 600 as first base,” he said. “I want to run

right through it and use it as a platform and a spring board for

more to come.”

The All-Star third baseman is 10 for 28 with five homers and 15

RBIs in his last eight road games.

New York’s last sweep at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

came May 13-15, 2005.

The Yankees have posted a 1.84 ERA in going 4-1 against Oakland

(41-44), and will start A.J. Burnett (6-7, 4.90 ERA) on

Wednesday.

Burnett is winless since the start of June, going 0-5 with an

11.35 ERA in that month before a solid outing last Friday. He gave

up four hits over 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 6-1, 11-inning loss

to Toronto.

His slump coincided with the absence of pitching coach Dave

Eiland, who was out for personal reasons. Eiland returned for

Burnett’s last outing.

“It’s good to hear his voice,” Burnett said.

Burnett is 2-3 with a 4.00 ERA in seven career starts against

Oakland, including 0-2 with a 2.61 ERA in three at the Coliseum.

A’s regulars Coco Crisp and Jack Cust are each 1 for 13 against

him.

The right-hander may be pitching to Jorge Posada, who made a

surprising return behind the plate Tuesday after missing Monday’s

game with an injured left ring finger. Manager Joe Girardi

initially said Posada would be out for a few days.

“I’m surprised with the way it felt yesterday,” Posada told the

Yankees’ official website. “It felt better than I thought it

would.”

The A’s have two runs and 10 hits – two for extra bases – in

this series.

Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.50) will start for Oakland. He’s 3-0 with a

1.54 ERA at the Coliseum since a loss to Tampa Bay on May 7.

The left-hander has allowed one earned run over his last 19 2-3

innings, lasting 6 2-3 on Friday in a 3-0 victory at Cleveland.

Gonzalez gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 7-3 loss to the

Yankees on April 20, falling to 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two career

starts against them. Rodriguez is 0 for 3 with two walks against

him.