Captain needs to get home

The Yankees return home Monday, and no one should be happier about that than the team captain. Derek Jeter suffered through a tortuous trip on the personal level as all things considered the Yankees were fortunate to come away with a 3-3 record on the trek through Toronto and Chicago.

More than in any other season, Jeter appears lost on the road in 2010. He was hitless in four at-bats with a walk Sunday and grounded into his 20th double play of the season. Jeter was 2-for-23 (.087) with one home run and two RBI on the trip and is stuck on a .270 batting average for the season.

The discrepancy between home and away is alarming. Jeter is batting .230 with three home runs and 24 RBI on the road, compared to .314 with seven home runs and 35 RBI at Yankee Stadium. His career numbers are .322 at home and .307 on the road, so this year is clearly out of the ordinary for Jeter.

To win two close games against the White Sox the past two days was huge for the Yankees, who are already without Alex Rodriguez and had Mark Teixiera (bruised right thumb) for only one at-bat. Marcus Thames came up big-time for the Yankees, a sort of anti-Jeter on the road by going 8-for-17 (.471) with one double, five home runs and eight RBI. Two of his home runs were off right-handed pitchers, a very encouraging sign.

The Yankees’ other RBI came from Brett Gardner, who hit leadoff with Jeter dropping to No. 2, on a single in the third inning in what was a strange at-bat. Francisco Cervelli led off with a double, the first of four hits in the game that raised his average from .240 to .253. Gardner did not show bunt on the first pitch and took a strike. He made a sacrifice attempt on the second pitch and bunted it foul. Swinging away on 0-and-2, Gardner singled up the middle to score Cervelli with a second run that held up.

The Yankees found a new starting pitcher on the trip in rookie righthander Ivan Nova, who earned his first major-league victory Sunday. In his two starts on the trip, Nova allowed three earned runs and 11 hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Nova will get another start, although it will not come up at the expense of A.J. Burnett, who will remain in the rotation. The odd man out remains Javier Vazquez, who is likely to be used as a backup for Phil Hughes in his starts to keep his innings down.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen went so far as to say Nova was the Yankees’ best pitcher in the series, quite a statement considering Mariano Rivera had two saves. Guillen did not have a good day. He lifted his best hitter, Paul Konerko, in a one-run game in the eighth for a pinch runner who tried to steal on the first pitch and was thrown out trying to steal second base.

Perhaps Ozzie’s mind was clouded by watching one of his least favorite players, Nick Swisher, have a great series against his former team. Swisher, who hit .219 for Guillen in 2008, was 5-for-13 (.385) with a double, two homers and five RBI in the series. Over the past two years for the Yankees, Swish is hitting .333 with one double, five home runs and 11 RBI in 45 at-bats against the White Sox.

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