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Separate Ways

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Yanks Look to Pull Away from Wild Card Contenders in Final Stretch It hasn't been an easy ride for the New York Yankees. Since April, the questions have come and still some of them have ...

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Yanks Look to Pull Away from Wild Card Contenders in Final Stretch

It hasn't been an easy ride for the New York Yankees. Since April, the questions have come and still some of them have not been answered. An old and fragile starting rotation, a thin bullpen and lack of production out of first base have been just a few of them. But with only 22 games to go in the regular season, the Bronx Bombers are leading the wild card race by three games and trail the Boston Red Sox for the top spot in the American League East by only six. Not too shabby when you look at where they were earlier this summer.

The team right behind the Yankees for the final playoff berth is the Seattle Mariners, who just left New York after dropping two out of three. More importantly, the M's have lost 11 out of their last 12 games to lose the lead and find themselves fading fast.

On Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, Alex Rodriguez blasted two home runs to lead the way in a 10-2 rout. Earlier in the day, the Yanks' third baseman had an MRI on his right ankle and was not expected to start. Rodriguez injured it in the previous game sliding and probably would have sat to rest the sprain if it weren't for the pennant race.

"There's not much time left," Rodriguez said to reporters. "If this was April or May 1, I definitely would have taken the day."

The two long balls gave Rodriguez 512 for his career, tying him with Eddie Matthews and Mel Ott for 17th all-time. Coming to bat in the bottom of the seventh staring at a 2-1 deficit, A-Rod took Jarrod Washburn deep for his 47th of the year to tie the game. The Yankees went on to score six more in the frame to take the lead and blow the game open.

The Yankees now head to Kansas City for a weekend set with the 62-77 Royals. Seattle goes to Detroit, who is 3 1/2 games back in the wild card race. In essence, these two clubs could damage one another while the Yankees have a chance to pull further ahead by sweeping a very beatable opponent.

Although their starting pitching has been a little suspect of late, the Yankees have enough firepower to survive in a shoot-out. They have five regulars hitting over .300: Rodriguez (.312); Derek Jeter (.320); Jorge Posada (.337) and Robinson Cano (.301). The entire lineup is capable of hitting the ball out, and now that Jason Giambi seems to be healthy, he adds tremendous power to a club that had plenty to begin with.

So, throughout a bumpy ride that people calling for manager Joe Torre's head and to 'back up the truck' and trade all the veterans, look who's sitting in the driver's seat now?