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Lester Spins Gem

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NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18: Pedro Ciriaco #77 of the Boston Red Sox (C) is tagged out at home plate by Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees in the ninth inning at Yankees Stadium on August 18, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 18: Pedro Ciriaco #77 of the Boston Red Sox (C) is tagged out at home plate by Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees in the ninth inning at Yankees Stadium on August 18, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)

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By RONALD BLUM
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nick Swisher has found a home in the No. 2 slot
in the Yankees’ batting order. Whether he keeps his home in New
York beyond this year remains to be seen.

Swisher had three hits in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Red
Sox, raising his average to .348 with four homers and 14 RBIs since
manager Joe Girardi moved him up to second in the order on Aug. 8.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Swisher is
raising his profile ahead of hitting the free-agent market.

150458795 Lester Spins Gem

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 18: Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees slides safely under third baseman Nick Punto #5 of the Boston Red Sox as he jumps to catch a high throw in the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium on August 18, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)

“It’s a good spot to be in,” he said. “I just feel like I’m
going out there and I’ve just kind of been thinking a lot. That
word `regret’ kind of pops in my head. That’s the last thing I want
to have, regardless of whatever my situation is next year, you
know, I just want to enjoy this time I have now and just soak it
up, see what happens.”

A versatile 31-year-old outfielder and first baseman, Swisher is
hitting .272 for the season with 18 homers and 69 RBIs. Before the
recent shift, he spent most games in the No. 6 slot.

And he’s become a big part of the team’s personality. A chatty,
uplifting clubhouse presence, he always seeming to be “on.”

If there’s any criticism, it’s that Swisher struggles against
top pitchers in the postseason. He’s a .160 hitter in exactly 100
postseason at-bats with the Yankees since 2009, with four homers,
just five RBIs and 28 strikeouts.

He’s making $10.25 million in the option year of a contract he
signed with Oakland in 2007. Thus far, the uncertainty hasn’t
appeared to bother him.

150460647 Lester Spins Gem

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 18: Manager Joe Girardi #28 of the New York Yankees (L) poses with heart transplant recipient Colby Salerno, of Cheshire, Conn., (L-C) and his mother Kelly Salerno (R) after presenting a team jersey to him before the Yankees played the Boston Red Sox on August 18, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)

“I’ve never gone through something like this. I don’t even
really know what to think about, so I’m just trying to enjoy it,
man, because this place has been so amazing to me.” he said. “So
I figure if I didn’t go out there and give it everything I had, I’d
feel bad about that, so, just trying to go out there, man, have
some fun, put up quality at-bats every single time and just go from
there.”

Other than Swisher, the Yankees’ offense didn’t do much against
Jon Lester (7-10), who won consecutive starts for the first time
since mid-May.

Curtis Granderson homered in the fourth for the Yankees’ only
run, then doubled leading off the seventh only to be stranded on
third. New York went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“Well, it’s hard to win the game when you do that,” manager
Joe Girardi said. `When you don’t do that, you’re usually going to
lose games.”

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the first off David
Phelps (3-4), and Yankees nemesis Pedro Ciriaco was 4 for 4,
raising his average against New York this year to .517 (15 for 29).

“He’s gotten us all year long,” Girardi said. “It’s
unbelievable.”

Making his second spot start while CC Sabathia is on the
disabled list, Phelps gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 2-3
innings, struck out seven and walked none. He fanned Cody Ross
three times, all on breaking balls.

He didn’t think the pitch to Gonzalez was all that bad.

“It was right where we wanted it. I mean, that ball was down,
and off the plate a little bit,” Phelps said. “He’s strong and he
just got enough of it. … When he hit it, I didn’t think he got it
as well as he did, I thought it was off the end a little bit, but I
turned around and saw it go.”

Granderson’s 32nd homer was his 11th off a left-hander.
“He had his cutter working, which is his signature pitch,” he
said. “It’s got a lot of movement on it. When it’s able to sweep
across as far as it does, it makes it very difficult to hit.”

Boston came right back in the fifth when Ciriaco singled with
one out and scored on Nick Punto’s double into the right-field
corner.

Punto helped Lester avoid trouble in the fifth. Ichiro Suzuki
singled with one out and stole second, and Derek Jeter hit a hard
one-hopper to third. The ball bounced off Punto’s glove into the
air, and he grabbed the ball with his bare hand and threw to first
for the out. Swisher then struck out on a check swing.

Ciriaco doubled in the ninth, sending Scott Podsednik to third,
and Cody Eppley threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

New York lost for just the fourth time in 11 games. Phelps
appears headed back to the bullpen, with Sabathia saying he’s set
to come off the disabled list and start Friday at Cleveland.
Sabathia threw a bullpen session Saturday and the left-hander said
his pitching elbow, which had been sore, is fine.

“Our hope is that he can pitch Friday. That’s our hope,”
Girardi said. “But I want to give ourselves a little leeway, if he
feels that he needs an extra day. That’s why I’m not being
committal to it.”

NOTES: Craig Breslow relieved in the eighth and induced an
inning-ending, double-play grounder from Cano, Ryan Lavarnway was
behind the plate, and according to STATS LLC and
baseballreference.com, the only previous all-Yale battery was in
1883 when the Philadelphia Athletics’ Jack Jones pitched to Al
Hubbard. The Red Sox said they had been talking with Yale in recent
days and had not yet been able to confirm that. … The AL East
will meet the NL West in interleague play next year, according to
the draft schedule MLB sent to teams. The Yankees are to play San
Francisco and Arizona at home and to travel to Los Angeles, San
Diego and Colorado.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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