Venue: Yankee Stadium
The New York Yankees may be in the process of sending a strong message that they're ready to wrestle the AL pennant away from the Texas Rangers.
If history is any indication, Derek Holland can't do much to stop them.
In the finale of these teams' regular-season series, the Yankees try to finish a four-game sweep of Texas and pound Holland yet again Thursday in the Bronx.
The Rangers (67-49) have won the last two AL championships, but New York (70-47) has taken over the league's best record thanks to its dominance this week. The Yankees have won the first three games by a combined 14-4, holding Texas to 14 total hits.
"Our guys have done a tremendous job," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose team has won seven of eight overall and 11 of 15 versus Texas since losing the 2010 ALCS. "I applaud our pitchers."
The Rangers lost their eighth straight at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday despite Josh Hamilton's two homers. New York allowed just two other hits and won 3-2 with help from Nick Swisher, who drove in his eighth run of the series.
Eric Chavez was 3 for 3 with an RBI and a walk, posting multiple hits in his sixth consecutive contest. The third baseman is batting .514 (19 for 37) with five homers and 11 RBIs in his last 11 games, but he's played sparingly against left-handed pitchers this year.
That means he may be out of the lineup as Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA) tries to change his fortunes against the Yankees. Holland threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings over two relief appearances during the 2010 ALCS and won Game 4, but his regular-season outings versus New York have been disastrous.
In seven regular-season games - six starts - Holland is 0-5 with a 9.26 ERA while allowing the Yankees to hit .340. He's lost all three of his starts at Yankee Stadium, serving up two homers in each.
"I don't really read into that much," Holland said after New York beat him 7-4 on April 23 in Arlington. Derek Jeter went 4 for 4 in that game against the left-hander, who allowed seven runs and nine hits over six innings, walking four and striking out one.
Detroit's hitters had much more trouble Saturday versus Holland, who yielded one run and three hits while fanning nine in 7 2-3 innings. He kept pace with Justin Verlander, and the Rangers won 2-1 on Mike Olt's pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth.
Counterpart Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70) is coming off a similarly strong start. The Yankees right-hander struck out 10 in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-2 win Saturday at Toronto, bouncing back after giving up 16 runs and 21 hits over 10 1-3 innings in losing his previous two outings.
Girardi called the performance "very encouraging," perhaps especially because Nova changed the grip on his slider and got improved results.
"It was great," Nova said of the pitch. "It was right where I wanted it."
Nova will be facing the Rangers for the first time in 2012 after going 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in last season's series, and he'll encounter several struggling Texas sluggers.
Ian Kinsler is 0 for 11 with four strikeouts in the Bronx this week, while Adrian Beltre is embroiled in a 5-for-30 slump without an extra-base hit or walk. Michael Young didn't start Wednesday, but flied out as a pinch hitter and is 1 for 14 in his last five games.
Hamilton, meanwhile, is 10 for 24 with five homers in his last seven contests. He's tied with Adam Dunn for the major league lead with 34 home runs.
"When you're seeing the ball good, you feel like you can pretty much hit anything," Hamilton said.
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