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Yankees What's On Tap: Huge Two-Game Series With Mattingly, Dodgers

  By Brad Carroll  
If the New York Yankees truly gained real momentum following their exciting, walk-off victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon, we'll find out for sure in Los Angeles starting Tuesday night. The Yankees will take on the Dodgers (yes, for the second time this season), a team that has been red-hot and leads the NL West by 2.5 games. This will be a true test in proving the Yankees have what it takes to make a run at the postseason this year.

It won't be easy, though. The Dodgers have turned their season completely around in the month of July, led by former Yankees great and current manager Don Mattingly. Los Angeles has gone 18-5 this month to take over the division lead and become one of the National League's best teams.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have not been good this month or since the All-Star break, with the Sunday victory over Tampa being one of the few shining moments. The good news for the Yankees is Derek Jeter is back in the lineup, Alfonso Soriano is back on the team, and Curtis Granderson's return is on the horizon. The Yankees just need to start stockpiling wins and moving forward in their quest for the postseason.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Red Sox Try and Rebound Against Seattle

  By Matt Straub  
This week features a big series for the Red Sox and an even bigger game. Boston plays tonight against the Rays with first place on the line, then hosts a Seattle team with better pitching than you might think by looking at their record. It’s hard to ask for more than a split of the first four games of the week, and here’s a look at why that’s the case.

Mets What's On Tap: Needing To Sweep 4-Game Series From Marlins

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets turned an opportunity to close within a game of second place in the NL East into something completely different this weekend. Losing three of four games to the Washington Nationals, including the last three in a row, the Mets are on the brink of simply playing for pride this season. Housed in fourth place and 12.5 games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves, the Mets could be in selling mode with the trade deadline quickly approaching.

Of course, the schedule sets up perfectly for a team that needs a lot of wins and needs them quickly to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. So, with the Mets traveling to Miami for four games with the terrible Marlins, there is a huge chance to put wins in the bank and hopefully make up ground in the NL East if other teams cooperate.

At the worst, the Mets must win three of four games, but even that might not be good enough. The Mets need to find a way to sweep this series from Miami. That would actually give the team a huge spark heading into August. It also might keep the team together for a few more months.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew Trending Up, David Ortiz, John Lackey, Matt Thornton Down

  By Matt Straub  

A 3-3 week never felt so good for the Boston Red Sox, who, with a little help from the Yankees, managed to maintain what has become a very loose grip on the AL East lead over the hard-charging Tampa Bay Rays, who had taken the division lead for a day.

As the East race becomes a roller coaster, it was also a topsy-turvy week for the Red Sox, who had some players switch places from their usual spots on this week’s 3 Up & 3 Down list. Yes, they stayed where they need to be in the fight for first, but they also missed some chances to rebuild their lead.

Let’s look at who earned praise this week (one of the names will shock you) and who deserved some ripping over the last seven days (one player on the list will be surprising, and he’s not there for the reason you’d think.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Jenrry Mejia, Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd Trending Up, Jeremy Hefner, Carlos Torres, Eric Young, Jr. Down

  By Brad Carroll  
All the positive momentum the New York Mets had built up this month came to a crashing halt Sunday afternoon in Washington. The Mets were routed by the Nationals in the series finale, losing 14-1 in a game the team needed in order to get a four-game split. The Mets, however, didn't show up and for the third straight game, scoring just one run in each, and fell 10 games under .500 at 46-56.

The season, already on the brink, is on life support right now. In fact, only the most adamant supporter of the team would say the Mets have a shot at the postseason. Losing three of four to a Nationals team that isn't that much better will do that. Showing no life, with single runs in three straight losses to end the week, is yet another reason in a long list of them.

From splitting a four-game series with the division-leading Braves, to an 11-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader Friday in Washington, things were looking up for the Mets to start the week. But all that is gone now. Here's who did their part to help the team keep winning, and those who were responsible for the team reverting back to their losing ways.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda Trending Up, CC Sabathia, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes Down

  By Brad Carroll  
Sunday afternoon's game against the Tampa Bay Rays was just like old times for the New York Yankees and their fans. Derek Jeter started the scoring with a home run in the first inning. Alfonso Soriano was lighting up the opposition's pitching. Mariano Rivera was perfect in the ninth. And the Yankees won on a walk-off single in a game they absolutely had to win.

Finally, it was a great afternoon of baseball for the Yankees and their fans.

Not surprisingly, it was sparked by the two people who have joined the team in the last few days. Jeter homered on the first pitch he saw from Matt Moore in his second return from injury. Soriano went 4-for-5 with a home run and the game-winning single in the ninth inning. The Yankees have been pathetic on offense this season, but with Jeter and Soriano, and Curtis Granderson on the way as soon as Friday, the tide in the postseason chase may be turning in the Yankees favor.

Overall, this was not the week the Yankees wanted, not even close. They split four games with the Rangers in Texas, then lost the first two games against the Rays before saving their season with the win Sunday. But this year suddenly has the feeling of promise once again. Thanks to Jeter and Soriano, the Yankees have been rejuvenated. A much-needed jolt of offense and confidence.

Mets What's On Tap: Another Must-Win Series Up Next In Washington

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets continue their trek through their NL East rivals starting Friday afternoon, traveling to Washington for a four-game series against the Nationals. The teams hook up for a day-night doubleheader Friday before finishing off the set this weekend. As with every series the Mets will play from here on out, this one is the latest, most important, of the season.

Coming off a split with the Atlanta Braves over four games, the Mets are 10 games back in the NL East race and 11.5 out of the wild card standings. Both numbers are way too high for a team with faint postseason hopes, and that's why a four-game split with the Braves, a much better team, still won't cut it. So, the Mets must take at least three of four from the struggling Nationals.

Washington is just two games better than the Mets this season, as it is a far cry from the team that became a trendy pick to win the National League pennant last year. The Mets have to get the job done, or the roster could look completely different after the upcoming trade deadline.

Yankees Trade For Alfonso Soriano, Cubs Will Pay Most Of His Salary

  By Brad Carroll  
There's been so much bad news surrounding the Yankees this season, it's getting to the point of being completely ridiculous. But, finally, there's some good going on in the Bronx. Alfonso Soriano is back with the Yankees after the Cubs traded the outfielder back to the team he started with.

Soriano played for the Yankees from 1999-2003 before being sent to the Texas Rangers as the main piece in the trade for Alex Rodriguez. Soriano right away becomes the second best offensive player on the Yankees right now, behind Robinson Cano. He's hitting .254 with 24 doubles, 17 home runs and 51 RBI overall this season. Over the last 30 days, he's been even better. Soriano is batting .286 with six doubles, 10 home runs and 21 RBI.

Yankees What's On Tap: Must-Win Series Against Red-Hot Tampa Rays

  By Brad Carroll  
The only place there isn't drama surrounding the New York Yankees is on the baseball field. Every other place, from Tampa to the Bronx to wherever the team may be playing, it's been a soap opera, with storylines that would only be believable in the world of exaggeration. From the countless number of injuries, to the rumored and now confirmed trade for Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, to Alex Rodriguez's battles with Major League Baseball and his own team, too, it's been a wild season indeed.

It makes for juicy headlines, but unlike previous years, when the Yankees could handle those distractions and still win games, this year's version hasn't been able to do that. Still, the Yankees actually had some success in their previous four-game series against the Rangers, getting a much-needed split.

Winning two of four games isn't a recipe for making the playoffs, but it's a great outcome for a tough matchup on the road. The next series, against the Tampa Rays starting Friday night, must be won, however. The Yankees need to win at least two of three games to make a dent in the AL East race.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Another Key AL East Matchup, Against Orioles

  By Matt Straub  

Thursday’s rain cost this writer a chance to see a ballgame and deprived us of the winner-takes-the-lead showdown in the AL East between the Red Sox and Rays, but the teams will now meet again Monday night at Fenway in a game which could end up being just as important while also standing alone, giving it an exciting stage.

But while Monday night’s game has a chance to be a special night, the Red Sox will first have to get through this week in Baltimore, a place which has become a house of horrors for Boston and was the site of their final, fatal collapse in 2011.

It wasn’t a bad week for the Sox, who can still gain a split of the four games with Tampa Monday after Boston took two of three from New York. But in the difficult and deep AL East there is always another challenge around the corner, and Boston’s comes this weekend.

Report: Yankees Close To Acquiring Alfonso Soriano In Trade With Cubs, Would Finally Be A Right Decision

Alfonso Soriano could be hitting homers for the Yankees. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
For those hoping Alex Rodriguez would be the one to provide a power boost to the Yankees offense once he gets over his latest injury were struck with a shot to the stomach by the news Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season. That suspension means Major League Baseball has to be closing in on nailing A-Rod with some kind of punishment of his own. Could be the same. Could be worse. Either way, nobody should rely on Rodriguez for anything this season.

What that means is these current Yankees are still in desperate need of a bat to provide offense for a team that has become embarrassing at the plate this season. And according to a report in the New York Post, that man could be Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano. George King reports the Yankees are close to acquiring the former Yankee for a mid-level prospect. The Cubs would likely eat most of the $25 million owed to Soriano over the next year and a half.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Battle For First Place In AL East With Rays

  By Matt Straub  
After a hard-fought, emotional series against the Yankees, the Red Sox go right back into the fire by playing a series which, at least of terms of the standings, is more important against Tampa Bay. The Rays have lost all of twice in July and have pulled within a game in the loss column of first place in the East, making this week a battle for first place in the division with what will be less than 60 games to go when it’s over.

Here's a look at the key principals involved in the big four-game set and the things each team must do to earn the title of beast of the east, at least for this week.

Yankees What's On Tap: Important Four-Game Series Against Rangers

  By Brad Carroll  
When are the Yankees going to turn this season around and start winning consistently? It's the question fans want answered, because this season is already on the verge of becoming a huge disappointment. The Yankees might not be as good as they have been, with the worst lineup in 20 years, but the postseason is always the goal in New York, and a season without a playoff appearance is considered a failure.

But the season isn't over and the Yankees have 64 games remaining to make everyone forget about the terrible moments, including the devastating loss to the Red Sox Sunday night. They get an opportunity to make a dent in the wild card standings early this week, taking on the Rangers in Texas starting Monday night for a four-game series. The Rangers are two games in front of the Yankees in the wild card chase, and 1.5 games behind the Rays and Orioles for the overall lead.

Mets What's On Tap: NL East-Leading Braves At Citi Field For Four Games

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets started the second half of the season winning two of three games against the Phillies, a promising continuation of what has been a solid month so far. The Mets are 10-6 in July and with the dominance of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, a continued second-half surge might not be too far-fetched.

If the Mets are going to make some waves as we head to August, they are going to have to continue to win every series they play, and it doesn't get any bigger than the four games to begin this new week. The NL East-leading Atlanta Braves come into Citi Field starting Monday night. Here's a closer look at the matchup.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Stewart, Shawn Kelley Trending Up, CC Sabathia, Lyle Overbay, Adam Warren Down

  By Brad Carroll  
Sunday night's loss in extra innings to the Red Sox was the most depressing of the season for the New York Yankees and their fans. The 8-7 defeat in 11 innings not only was a devastating blow for a team that desperately needed a series win over the AL East leaders, but was a reminder this season could be a long one for the Yankees. Now seven games out, the Yankees are teetering on the edge of survival in the hunt for a postseason spot.

It could have been very different if the Yankees won a game where the offense actually scored seven runs and had CC Sabathia as the starting pitcher. But Sabathia had yet another terrible outing, getting lit up by the Red Sox. The Yankees offense still managed to come back from a 7-3 deficit to tie the game, and the bullpen was outstanding, allowing just one hit in five innings heading into the 11th.

But it all came crumbling down with a massive home run by Mike Napoli, his second homer of the game. The Red Sox had the series win and the Yankees were left with the hugely disappointing loss.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Drake Britton Trending Up, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Daniel Nava Down This Week

  By Matt Straub  
As the Red Sox and Yankees toiled through a long, critical game to settle a big three-game series to start the second half, it became clear that who played well in the rubber game of the series would figure prominently in this week’s list of ups and downs.

Yes, we’re factoring in the other two games of the series, but those who helped Boston win the game of the year over the Yankees Sunday had the best chance of making the “up” list this week, while those who helped lose Saturday’s game might as well be wearing pinstripes right now as the Red Sox fight hard to stay in first place in the East.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares, David Wright, Jeremy Hefner, Josh Satin, Eric Young Jr.

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets needed a strong start to the second half to give the team, and fanbase, confidence that this season isn't going to turn into another disaster. So far, so good. The Mets took two of three games against the Phillies, as a pair of great starts by Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler set the tone.

At eight games under .500, the Mets have a long way to go to make this season mean something come September. There is no margin for error, as every series needs to be won. Over the next two weeks, the Mets have four games each against the Braves, Nationals and Marlins. If anything we'll know pretty soon where the Mets are headed.

For now, however, the Mets did what they had to do following the All-Star break - take two of three from the Phillies. Here's the players who made it happen, and those who didn't help the cause.

Red Sox Send Ryan Dempster To Hill For Rubber Match Against Yankees

  By Matt Straub  

It’s the third game after the All-Star break and the Red Sox have already made a big change which affects tonight’s critical rubber match with the Yankees. Jon Lester was set to start the game tonight, creating a matchup of big-name lefties with CC Sabathia.

Instead, Lester has been sidelined. The Red Sox are saying it’s a desire to get him more rest, but according to an ESPN report his game of catch Saturday was inspected by a Red Sox trainer, never a good sign.

Mets Midseason Awards: Matt Harvey Is MVP, Zack Wheeler Surprise, Marlon Byrd, David Wright, More

Matt Harvey is the Mets MVP so far. (AP photo)
  By Jenni Mennella  
Just last season, the Mets were in third place in the NL East, six games over .500 and in prime contention for one of the two NL Wild Card spots at the All-Star break. Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. R.A. Dickey was well on his way to a Cy Young award. Matt Harvey was on the horizon and Zack Wheeler was the hot prospect in a steal of a deal for Carlos Beltran’s two bum knees.

Oh, how things have changed.

There's been a few good runs this season, including a four-game sweep of the Yankees. If nothing else goes right this season, at least the Mets ran this town for four whole days. The Mets even got the legendary Sandman himself to blow a save. That’s as rare as gold in any book. Before getting ahead of ourselves or cashing in the chips completely, let’s take a look at the highlights and lowlights of 2013.

Yankees What's On Tap: No Better Way To Start Than Against Red Sox

  By Brad Carroll  
Many see the New York Yankees opening the second half of the season against the Boston Red Sox as the worst possible matchup at the worst possible time. The Yankees can't compete with Boston, at least not yet, they say, so it's more than likely the Red Sox will sweep and send the Bronx Bombers nine games back in the AL East race. We see things differently.

There isn't a better matchup for the Yankees to open with than the rival Red Sox. The Yankees need a jolt to catapult them over the second half of the season and into the playoffs. There's no better way to do that than against one of the team's you're chasing. The Red Sox are the biggest team, as the division should still be the main goal. The Yankees are in fourth place, six games back of Boston, so there's no better time to make up games immediately than right now.

Mets What's On Tap: Mets Take On Phillies At Home To Open Second Half

  By Brad Carroll  

It may not have the same pomp and circumstances that came with having the All-Star game and its festivities at Citi Field earlier in the week, but the stadium in Queens will be back hosting New York Mets games in the second half of the season. First up for the Mets is their old rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.

If the Mets are going to turn this season into something other than another disappointment, they need to start quickly, and a series win over the Phillies would be the start of that. Here's a closer look at how the three-game series shapes up, starting Friday night.

Yankees Midseason Awards: Robinson Cano Is MVP, Mariano Rivera Biggest Surprise, CC Sabathia LVP, Plus Breakout & Disappointment

Mariano Rivera has been outstanding this season. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
With the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, and the break that comes with it lasting until Friday this season, we thought there was no better time to look back at the best and worst of the first half of the New York Yankees season.

From the team's MVP, biggest surprise and breakout star, right down to the Least Valuable Player and biggest disappointment, we'll take this rare chance when baseball is idle this summer to look back on an uneven Yankees season to date.

Watch Mariano Rivera Introduced And Pitching In Final All-Star Game

Red Sox What's On Tap: Breaking Down Huge Yankees-Red Sox Series

  By Matt Straub  

Usually, our What's On Tap feature will be full of insightful breakdowns of a week’s worth of baseball action about to come for our local teams. This week, however, I was worried about what I would write about since the Red Sox have four days off this week because of the All-Star break. It used to be a three-day break, but Boston is off until Friday this time around.

With so little game action, I figured this would be a short, boring blog. Then I remembered the Red Sox were playing the Yankees. So here’s a look at the biggest series of the year to date as Boston tries to keep its stranglehold on first place and the Yankees try to get back into the division race.

Instead of breaking down a series, let’s go day-by-day through the weekend set.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront, Brock Holt Trending Up, Jon Lester, Matt Thornton, Jose Iglesias Down

  By Matt Straub  
The belief that the All-Star break breaks up the season into two halves has always been a misconception. The way the calendar falls in 2013, however, makes the idea an outright lie. For example, the Boston Red Sox headed to the break Sunday night having played 97 games. They are more than two weeks past the halfway point of the season, making the second half more like the second 3/8.

But whatever you call the section of the season that just ended, the Red Sox deserve a break after the way it ended, surviving a 10-game road trip on the West Coast with a 5-5 record, which helped them maintain their lead in the American League East, which is two games over the Tampa Bay Rays in the loss column, with plenty of teams, including the Yankees, lurking right behind.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Lyle Overbay Trending Up, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Eduardo Nunez Down

  By Brad Carroll  
Just when you thought the New York Yankees were hitting their stride, with help from an easy schedule, everything comes crashing down. After the Yankees won six straight and six of seven against the Twins and Orioles last week, the Bronx Bombers turned into anything but in splitting a four-game set with the Royals and losing a three-game series to the Twins.

The latter, of course, is embarrassing no matter how it is broken down, especially with CC Sabathia on the mound with a chance to win the series.

But the losing wasn't the only bad to happen during the week, as the return of Derek Jeter ended up with the Captain being injured again. After reaching on an infield single in his first at-bat, coming around to score, and picking up an RBI later, Jeter was forced to leave early with a strained right quadriceps. Hopefully, he will be ready to go after the All-Star break, but it wouldn't surprise anyone in this season of injury if Jeter heads back on the disabled list. The Yankees, though, are optimistic, and so are we.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Zack Wheeler, Carlos Torres, Marlon Byrd, Shaun Marcum, Ike Davis, Omar Quintanilla

  By Brad Carroll  
Don't look now but the New York Mets are playing some really good baseball. The Mets are 8-5 in the month of July, have won five of their last seven, and salvaged one game of a three game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League's second-best team, by escaping a late jam Sunday and ending the first half of the season with a win.

The Mets still have a lot of work to do after the All-Star break, and the postseason is still a longshot, but things could be a lot worse. The recent run of success has the Mets at 41-50 and fourth place in the NL East, 11 games back of the Atlanta Braves. The Mets are 10 games out of the wild card chase as well. So, the recent run of victories needs not only to continue, but increase as well.

Jets Rookie QB Geno Smith Makes Wrong Choice In Skipping Out On Mark Sanchez's Jets West Camp

Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez. (AP)
  By Brad Carroll  
With news spreading that Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith won't be attending Mark Sanchez's Jets West camp, it's hard to envision a reason why the West Virginia product wouldn't go. Smith, perhaps more than any other big-name passer to come out of college in recent years, needs as much time practicing as anyone in the league. Especially when given the opportunity to practice with the same guys he's hoping to play with this coming season.

It might be awkward for Smith to attend a Sanchez-run camp, and he'll have to play second fiddle to the favorite to win the starting job this season, but there's no way attending hurts him. It actually makes him look bad by not showing up. Makes him look like he's taking an adversarial stance in what should be a tough battle during training camp and the preseason.

Red Sox Midseason Awards: David Ortiz Is MVP, Jose Iglesias Breakout Star, Jon Lester LVP, Many More

Jose Iglesias is our Breakout Star in Boston. (AP photo)
  By Matt Straub  

In recent seasons, we’ve brought you the “State of” reports for each of the area baseball teams in the Northeast: the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets. We’ve always looked back at the week that was, the high point of the week and the low of the last seven days.

Much of that will happen in this new format, which expands how much we’ll talk about baseball, but there will also be a less rigid weekly column about each team. Each week, for example, I’ll provide some insight into the Red Sox, focusing on whatever happens to be the big news of the week or something which hasn’t been focused on enough during the course of the season

This week will be even more different, however, as the all-star break is coming so it’s time to pass out some midseason awards and break down the best and worst of the first half of the season. Next week we’ll look at what needs to happen for the Red Sox to stay in first place in the AL East.

Derek Jeter Returns, Reaches On Infield Hit In First At-Bat Of Season

Derek Jeter is back. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
Derek Jeter is back in the Bronx with the New York Yankees and didn't waste any time adding another hit to his Hall of Fame total. Jeter swung at the first pitch Thursday afternoon against Royals pitcher Ervin Santana and grounded a short bouncer to third base, sprinting down the first base line for an infield hit.

The sparse crowd for the afternoon game gave Jeter a standing ovation prior to the at-bat and chanted his name after the base hit. With Robinson Cano up next and a 3-2 count, Jeter was running and went to third on a single. He then came in to score on a Vernon Wells sacrifice fly. Jeter did just about all he could in that first inning to test his body's readiness. The results look good so far.

Jeter is batting second and is the designated hitter. The Yankees trail the Royals 3-1 after the first inning.

Mets Prospect Cesar Puello Ripping Through Double-A, But Has Mind Right In Working Toward Big Stage

  By Brad Carroll  
It's no secret the New York Mets are hurting for offense, especially from the three outfield positions. Guys like Marlon Byrd, Eric Young Jr., Juan Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda and all the rest don't exactly put fear into opposing pitchers. Quite the opposite.

So, it's only fitting for a Mets fan to look to the future at who might be working their way through the ranks to finally crack the big league club and perhaps usher in a new era of power hitters in Queens.

That player just might be Cesar Puello, a power-hitting outfielder currently with the Binghamton Mets, the Double-A ball club of the New York Mets. Puello, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound Dominican Republic native, is already making a name for himself in the minor leagues.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Boston Takes On Mariners, Athletics Before Break

  By Matt Straub  
Things haven’t felt like this around Red Sox Nation since early May. There have been losses along the journey to first place over the last two months since Boston was swept in Texas and struggled for a couple of weeks after, but nothing which rang too many alarm bells.

The bells are now ringing in Boston. There’s a chance we look back at this weekend as a blip on the radar, but for the first time since May, it feels like the Red Sox are in trouble. Injuries are mounting, the bullpen is in shambles, and the team’s aura of unflappability seems to be gone. For much of the first half of the year, it looked like the Red Sox would be able to shake off anything.

Yankees What's On Tap: Yanks Host Royals, Twins Before All-Star Break

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees have another great opportunity to make up some ground in both the AL East and wild card races with a pair of opponents this week they should be able to beat. The final seven games before the All-Star break feature the Royals and Twins, both under-.500 teams, at home. The Yankees just swept a four-game series with Minnesota. There's no reason for the Yankees not to end the week winning five of the seven games. Here's a closer look at both series.

Royals at Yankees
Monday, 7:05 p.m. (Jeremy Guthrie vs. Phil Hughes)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. (James Shields vs. CC Sabathia)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. (Wade Davis vs. Ivan Nova)
Thursday, 1:05 p.m. (Ervin Santana vs. Andy Pettitte)

Mets What's On Tap: Mets Travel To Take On Giants, Pirates This Week

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets finish out the first half of their season this week, as they play a pair of three-game series to close out a nine-game road trip. The Mets take on the Giants in San Francisco first and then the Pirates in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Here's a deeper look at how the week ahead stacks up for the Mets.

Mets at Giants
Monday, 10:15 p.m. (Matt Harvey vs. Tim Lincecum)
Tuesday, 10:15 p.m. (Dillon Gee vs. Barry Zito)
Wednesday, 3:45 p.m. (Zack Wheeler vs. Matt Cain)

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Eduardo Nunez Trending Up, Brett Gardner, David Phelps, Mariano Rivera Down

  By Brad Carroll  
Even though it ended in disappointing fashion, the New York Yankees needed a week like this past one desperately. The Yankees had to sweep, yes sweep, a four-game series with the Twins - and they did it. The Yankees then had to take at least two of three from the Orioles - and they did that too.

Of course, the Yankees had the opportunity to sweep both series, but the great Mariano Rivera blew the save and lost the game to the Orioles Sunday, leaving the Yankees with a bad taste in a 6-1 week.

But it was a much-needed jolt of victories for a team that hasn't seen them come in bunches this season. The winning stretch regained some confidence and put the Yankees within a half-game of both the Rangers and Rays in the wild card race. The Yankees are 48-40 heading into the final seven games before the All-Star break, five games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Jeremy Hefner, Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Shaun Marcum, Matt Harvey

  By Brad Carroll  

The New York Mets put together their third straight non-losing week, and second winning stretch over that period, going 4-3 against the Diamondbacks and Brewers. The Mets have now gone 12-9 over the past three weeks, moving 11 games under .500 at 37-48 overall. That's the good news.

The bad news is the Mets gave up away a great chance to make a successful week even better, dropping the final two games of a four-game series with the Diamondbacks. The Mets won the first two games, but Matt Harvey lost the third game and then the D-Backs won the final game with a thrilling, 15-inning victory.

In the series finale, the Mets fell behind 3-2 in the 13th, only to tie the game in the bottom half. The Diamondbacks took the lead again in the 14th, but the Mets tied it again. In the 15th, though, Arizona scored a run for the third straight inning to take a 5-4 lead. This time, the Mets couldn't push a runner across and were handed a devastating loss.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, John Lackey Are Up, Alex Wilson, Craig Breslow, Brandon Snyder Down

  By Matt Straub  
It was another strong week for the Boston Red Sox, who entered Sunday’s rubber game with the Angles having won four of their previous five. Sunday’s loss led to a disappointing series loss, but it was a winning week none the less.

Winning four in a row allows you the luxury of blowing a game the way the Red Sox did Saturday. Being a good team, however, means fans will remember brutal defeats like Saturday’s collapse in Anaheim much more than they’ll ever remember the easy but important wins the Red Sox racked up against bad teams like San Diego.

So, as the Sox continue a big trip out west, let’s make sure they people responsible for the wins get the credit they deserve but might otherwise not receive before we skewer as many people as possible for the horrible, horrible loss Saturday.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down Week 13: Shaun Marcum, David Wright, Jeremy Hefner Are Up, Brandon Lyon, John Buck, Bobby Parnell Down

  By Brad Carroll  

It has been a rough first half of the season for the New York Mets. They're 35-45 and sit in fourth place in the NL East, 12.5 games back of the leading Atlanta Braves. The Wild Card race doesn't give any brighter a picture for the Mets either, as they are 11 games back of both the Cardinals and Reds, who are tied for the lead. But even with that bad news, there's plenty of good for the Mets. Fans have reason to be excited about their pitching staff, and David Wright continues to lead the team at the plate. The Mets are 6-4 over their last 10 games, and if they can keep up that pace through the All-Star Game break and beyond, who knows how the season will turn out.

State Of The Mets 13: David Wright, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler Have Mets Present And Future Looking Bright

  By Brad Carroll  

The New York Mets closed out the month of June with a lot of positives moving forward this season. Matt Harvey continues to lead the Mets pitching staff, and could very well be the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. Zack Wheeler represents the future perhaps more than anyone, and despite the fact he lost his first game Sunday, his simple presence has everyone excited. And the face of the franchise, David Wright, had a tremendous month at the plate, leading the team as he must. Now, the team needs the supporting cast to step up to make this season count instead of just looking ahead to the future.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down Week 13: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Nova Are Up, Brian Cashman, David Adams, Jayson Nix Down

  By Brad Carroll  
Only Alex Rodriguez could create a firestorm with a simple Tweet. It's the reason why A-Rod will always been surrounded in controversy, whether it's by his own doing or not. He's done plenty to put himself in hot water with the team, league and fans. Probably more than any other baseball player in history. But this latest dust-up, which had Yankees general manager Brian Cashman telling a reporter that Rodriguez needs to "shut the (bleep) up," isn't his fault. A player should never be talked that way by a member of the organization to the media, especially for a completely innocent moment of joy. A-Rod got news from doctors he was cleared to return to the field and Tweeted about it. Cashman obviously wasn't happy. Of course, we should all know that had more to do with Cashman being exposed as a liar, as just days earlier he denied a report that A-Rod was going to be returning to the field soon. Cashman has been wrong a lot this season, and this was just another part of his failures. The whole episode makes for easy choices to lead both spots of our 3 Up and 3 Down column.

State Of The Yankees Week 13: Horrible Month Can Be Pinned On Yankees Offense, Which Has Become Pathetic In This Season On Brink

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees ended a dreadful month on a five-game losing streak and went 11-16 overall in June. It was enough to drop the team from first place in the AL East to fourth place and out of Wild Card position altogether. The offense became inept at the plate, scoring 13 total runs in that losing streak and reaching seven runs just two times in the month. It's to the point where fans should be clamoring for the return of Alex Rodriguez, as even at his diminished talent level, is still the second best hitter on the active roster. Yes, that's how bad the Yankees offense has been and how quickly this season has gone from promising to something completely different.

State Of The Red Sox Week 13: At Midway Point Of Season, Red Sox Cement Status As Best Team In East

  By Matt Straub  
My first thought as I sat down to write this week’s State of the Sox post was this week seemed to have flown by. It’s probably because I’ve been so busy at home, but it seems like just a few seconds since Boston was blowing a series in Detroit.

  Opening Statement  
Then I pulled up the American League standings to start to prepare for this post and I realized it wasn’t this week that flew by but this season. The Red Sox entered Monday 50-34, which means the 2013 season is now officially more than half over. That’s bad because it means we only have slightly less than half of the season left to watch, which doesn’t seem like enough when things are just starting to get good. But, if you’re a fan of the Boston Red Sox  knowing the year is more than half over is a great sign because it means Boston will be players in the various playoff races down the stretch of the season. Sure, there will be more bad weeks and rough patches. But if this week is any indication, the Red Sox are going to be able to fight through them. After all, Boston just put a bad week behind it by dominating the competition in a 5-1 stretch which cemented their status as the best team in the AL East. Let’s look at a strong week which capped a stunning surge up the standings.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down Week 13: John Lackey, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara Are Up, Stephen Drew, Craig Breslow, Mike Napoli Down

  By Matt Straub  

I don’t think I’ve had a harder week picking the three up and three down. Eight different players were over .300 at the plate this week, and there wasn’t too many bad pitching efforts. That’s what happens in a 5-1 week. So let’s look at who was really good over the last seven days and who wasn’t quite as good, which this week counts as being down.

  3 Up  
John Lackey: Every time I write this, I shudder, but it’s true. I was in the crowd Wednesday when Lackey put together one of the most dominant performances of his career when he tied his career high with 12 strikeouts in a win over Colorado. Sure, the competition wasn’t great, but Lackey was. Early in the game, after he had six K’s through two innings, my friends and I started to wonder if he could approach the record of 20 in a game. As expected, he cooled off a bit, but he kept the Rockies at bay by throwing strikes (73 of his 98 pitches were strikes) which let him get ahead in counts or make the Rockies put the ball in play to waiting defenders. Throw in the fact that he was easily in the 90s all day, and this was a great effort. It was also his ninth quality start in his last 13 games. At this point, he might actually be the team’s ace.