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Wrapping it up from Oakland

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Yankees Athletics BaseballChad Gaudin didn’t get a win tonight, falling two outs short. But he did prove himself worthy of another spot start for the Yankees and that’s important.

With only 41 games left to play and the Yankees holding a seven-game lead, the smart play is to give a day or two of extra rest to the starters when it makes sense.

Joe Girardi isn’t going to a six-man rotation, but he will use Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and the four days off the team has in September to make sure his primary starters are as fresh as they can be for the postseason. The goal is to win the World Series, not to win the division by as many games as possible.

Because they have a potent offense (although not tonight) and an effective bullpen, the Yankees can get away with using fringy pitchers like Gaudin and Mitre. The long-term benefit is worth any short-term pain.

“It’s huge,” Andy Pettitte said before the game today. “If you can give myself and CC and A.J. a few extra days between now and the end of the season, it’s going to pay off.”

Mark Teixeira made it work by driving in three runs then making a nice scoop to complete an important double play in the eighth inning. Tex now has 31 home runs and 89 RBI. He is tied with Carlos Pena for the league lead and is second in RBI behind Justin Morneau.

“All the credit goes to my teammates,” Teixeira said. “If guys aren’t getting on in front of me, I’m not getting the RBIs. If guys aren’t hitting behind me, I’m not getting pitches to hit home runs. I love being part of this lineup.

“You can try and swing at your pitch. Anyone that can have the protection that I have is going to get some pitches to hit and it’s a great feeling.”

A few other notes:

• Phil Hughes was alone on an island there in the eighth inning. “Go get ’em young man,” Joe Girardi said later. “He did the job.” Hughes has a 1.31 ERA in relief. All these high-leverage situations will help make him a better starter in 2010. You can see him gaining confidence and learning what he needs to do every day.

• Derek Jeter is 13 of 20, 16 of 29 and 22 of 40. He gets two hits a day like he’s punching a clock at a factory. OK, so it’s a factory that pays him $20 million. Work with me on the analogy.

• A-Rod is scuffling. He is 5 of 25 with one RBI in his last eight games. Both he and Girardi say his swings have been better, but we’re not seeing the results lately. Along with lining up the pitching staff, the other priority before the postseason is to get him going again.

• Nick Swisher has reached safely in 28 straight games. Swish was packing a fuzzy pink bathrobe into his travel bag tonight and I had to ask. “Gift for a lady friend,” he said. “I’m a sensitive guy.”

• CC gave out 425 backpacks to kids at his old elementary school today. They were stuffed with school supplies. Every kids also got an autographed photo. CC spoke to two assemblies when at the school, too. Good man, that CC.

Flying back to NYC tomorrow morning but there will be some blog updates set up. Thanks to everybody who stayed up reading during all these 10 p.m. starts.

Thanks especially to all the Bay Area blog readers who said hello or invited me out. East Coast deadlines prohibited that but I appreciate the offers. Our little community of readers is active everywhere and that’s a cool thing.