Historic start bodes well for Bombers

NEW YORK -- After finally hitting his first home run of the season and passing Mark McGwire on the all-time home runs list, Alex Rodriguez may be leading the Yankees in a chase of team history.

Following Saturday's 7-3 victory over the Rangers, the Yankees go for the sweep on Sunday, knowing they have won their initial four series. This is the first time the Yankees have taken their first four season series since 1926.

In '26, Babe Ruth's club won their first five series, but ended up losing the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

A fast start doesn't guarantee anything. The 2003 Yankees began 9-2, won 101 games, but lost in the World Series to the Marlins.

"You don't necessarily remember how you start," said Joe Girardi in a statement later echoed by an even-keeled clubhouse. "It is how you finish."

The Yankees are off to a special start not only because they are winning, but because of who they are beating and how they are beating them. The Red Sox, the Rays, the Angels and now the Rangers are all teams that could be back here in October.

The Yankees are rampaging through them. Look at the scores: Besides the Red Sox series, the Yankees wins haven't been close. It is 10-0 one night, 7-3 the next. And they have done it without A-Rod or Mark Teixeira putting up their regular MVP-caliber numbers.

Even though A-Rod had hit 583 homers before Saturday, he said he felt like he may never go deep again. He finally did, and his fourth-inning solo shot moved him past McGwire into eighth on the career home run list.

"I'm getting into a groove a little bit," A-Rod said.

Consider this: Since A-Rod returned from a hip injury in May 2009, the Yankees have played 160 games (including the postseason) and have won 109 of them. The 1998 team finished with a franchise-best 114 wins in the regular season.

The days of undervaluing what Rodriguez means on the field are gone because over 162 games, talent wins the day.

That is why Teixeira's April psychosis will likely soon be cured by the calendar turning to May. On Saturday, Teixeira went 1-for-4, improving his average to .100. His hit was a broken-bat RBI single. He still doesn't look good, but is there a reason to believe he won't start hitting soon?

Meanwhile, there are not many question marks with the Yanks. A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada have discovered peace and -- more importantly if they will remain an October couple -- scoreless innings. On Saturday, Burnett threw precisely, topping Sabathia's rain-shortened performance on Friday by going seven.

Girardi, Rodriguez and Derek Jeter say the Yankees are playing so well because of pitching. Besides Javier Vazquez, they have had good start after good start.

Their biggest obstacle, like every other team, is health. If Sabathia, Mariano Rivera or A-Rod goes down, maybe hanging on is the topic instead of history.

These Yankees can beat you in every which way. The electric Brett Gardner had three infield hits and forced an errant throw by Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden on a stolen base.

"He's a pest," said Girardi, who brought his Yankees career win total to a tidy 200.
They wait opposing pitchers out. Poor Scott Feldman had to throw 73 pitches to record his seven outs, which is the same number Sabathia threw for his 18 outs on Friday.

"That wears you down," Girardi said of the Yankees' patience.

The 1998 Yankees began the season 7-4 and finished 114-48. These Yankees are 8-3 (.727), which projects to 118 wins.

A lot can happen between now and the end of September. Joba Chamberlain and the setup men could fail, Vazquez may never get right and injuries, injuries, injuries.

Still, over the past 160 games with A-Rod, the Yankees have been in shouting distance of '98. This year, they haven't even started playing the Royals, the Orioles and the Indians yet. If healthy, this 2010 machine could be something special.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.