Two classic ingredients have aided the New York Yankees' current winning streak, which will be on the line tonight in the opener of a three-game series versus the Atlanta Braves in the Bronx.
Big hits and strong pitching are keeping the Yankees unbeaten since June 7 and the current American League East leaders own a season-best nine-game winning streak -- the longest since a similar run from May 13-21, 2009.
New York watched Ivan Nova push his 2012 record to 9-2 in Sunday's 4-1 win at Washington by holding the hosting Nationals to a run in 7 2/3 innings. Boone Logan got the final out of the eighth inning and Rafael Soriano closed the door in the ninth for his 13th save. Nova has won twice during the streak and is undefeated in his last 15 starts on the road.
"For the most part we've been playing pretty good for a long time, it doesn't mean you're always going to win, but you want to play well," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said of the recent stretch. "It's obviously a lot more fun when you're playing well."
Curtis Granderson hit his 21st home run of the season and Mark Teixeira went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Yankees, who are 1 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore in the division standings and have swept the Mets, Braves and Nationals in succession. Robinson Cano also homered in the win.
New York hadn't swept three straight series of three games or more since June 30-July 12, 1998 against Philadelphia, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The Yankees are 13-2 this month, sit a season-high 15 games over .500 and have won seven of their last eight series. They lead the majors with 99 home runs this season and own 21 over the previous 13 games.
The Yankees are in the midst of playing 15 in a row against the NL East and last prevailed in 10 straight games from May 7-17, 2005.
Granderson leads the Yankees in home runs and has reached base safely in 58 of 65 this season. Eight of his last 10 homers have come on the road. Nick Swisher did not play Sunday after suffering a left thigh contusion the before on a slide at home plate. He could return on Monday.
"You get a knee to the thigh, you're going to be sore," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the club's site Sunday. "He's going to get a lot of treatment, and if we don't get him back tomorrow, we'll shoot for Tuesday. Sometimes those things can linger."
CC Sabathia looks to keep the Yanks rolling when he makes his 14th start of the season tonight. Sabathia has won three of four starts and was previously in action during a 6-4 triumph at Atlanta on Tuesday. The left-hander was reached for four runs and 10 hits in seven innings, but was bailed out by the offense. Alex Rodriguez tied the game with a grand slam and Nick Swisher put New York ahead with a two-run shot.
Sabathia is 8-3 with a 3.70 ERA and has a 3-2 mark in five starts in the Bronx this season. He has faced Atlanta three times in his career -- all starts -- and sports a 2-1 record to go along with a 3.80 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Braves have dropped six of seven games since winning six in a row, and will also visit Boston on their upcoming six-game road swing.
Atlanta lost the last two meetings of a three-game set versus Baltimore and is coming off Sunday's 2-0 setback in the series finale. Braves starter Randall Delgado pitched well in defeat and gave up both runs and three hits in eight innings.
"We've played well. You also have to remember we've got some guys hurt," Braves catcher David Ross said. "We're just trying to get back healthy and grind it out. It's a long season. We knew this going to be a tough part. The American League is really good. I feel bad for Randall."
Andrelton Simmons registered a team-best two hits for Atlanta, which went 3-6 on the recent nine-game, 10-day homestand.
The Braves, who are four games behind Washington for the NL East lead, will hand the ball to Mike Minor tonight. Minor last pitched in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Yankees and was solid in 7 1/3 innings of work, allowing only one run and five hits in the no-decision. It was his first appearance against the Yankees. Minor also pitched into the eighth inning for the first time since a 10-2 win at Arizona on April 19.
Minor has allowed one run in each of his last two starts (1-0) and is 2-2 in seven outings away from Turner Field this season.
Atlanta has lost five in a row to the Yankees. New York won two of three meetings the last time as the host in the series from June 26-28, 2006.