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Monday, June 18, 2012
Yankees bloom in June, go for perfect 10

By John Fisher and Katie Sharp, ESPN Stats & Information

AP Photo/Kathy WillensCC Sabathia and the Yankees go for their 10th straight win tonight against the Braves.

The New York Yankees are baseball’s hottest team, entering tonight’s contest against the Atlanta Braves (7 ET on ESPN) with a nine-game win streak and an MLB-best 10-2 record in Interleague play.

Each of the Yankees' nine wins during their streak have come against teams with a winning record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the first time in franchise history that the Yankees have won nine consecutive games, all against teams with a winning record.

The Yankees hot stretch has been fueled by a starting pitching staff that leads the majors in June in ERA (1.97) and wins (11). However, the one pitcher that has been the “deadweight” in the rotation during this run is the Yankees ace, CC Sabathia, who takes the mound tonight at Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia has a 3.86 ERA in three starts this month, which is by far the highest among any of the Yankee starters in June. He is also the only Yankee starter to suffer a loss this month.

In his most recent start – against the same Braves lineup last week – he allowed a season-high 10 hits and four runs.

The Braves tagged his fastball for nine hits in 17 at-bats, and his heater averaged 91.6 MPH, its lowest velocity in a start since April 17.

In fact, Sabathia’s velocity has been down this entire season. His average fastball is 92.1 MPH, compared to 93.3 in the first half last season.

One encouraging sign, from his recent start against the Braves was a filthy slider that got a season-high 11 outs. Opponents are now 4-for-31 (.129) with 15 strikeouts in at-bats ending in a slider over his last three starts, and he leads MLB with 59 strikeouts with the slider this season.

Mike Minor has struggled for much of this season, allowing at least six earned runs in five starts this season, which is tied for the most such starts in the majors.

His performance with runners in scoring position has really declined this year compared to 2011. He has been hit hard in those situations, as eight of his 13 hits allowed with RISP have gone for extra bases.

However, Minor has pitched better in his past two outings, including his most recent start against the Yankees last week, allowing two runs over 12S combined innings.

He’s done it by increasing the use and effectiveness of his slider. He has thrown 33 sliders in his last two starts (one every six pitches) and opponents have just one hit with three strikeouts in six at-bats ending in the pitch.

In his first 10 starts, he threw his slider one every 12 pitches and he got just one strikeout while allowing four hits in 10 at-bats ending in the pitch.

The Braves are averaging just two runs per game in their last seven contests, during which they have just one win, and have been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since 2009.

Just once in the last 20 seasons has Atlanta been shut out in three straight games: In June 2007, they were blanked twice by the Boston Red Sox and once by the Detroit Tigers.