First Pitch: The Verlander effect

NEW YORK -- The Yankees beat Justin Verlander Sunday.

The last time they did that, as the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro tweeted Sunday, they were 1-4. But after rocking Verlander on April 7, the Yankees won 24 of their next 34 games.

Verlander is obviously having a down year, but beating him is still an impressive feat.

The Yankees, coming off their first series win since July 5-7, are 59-57, 10 back in the A.L. East standings and seven back in the Wild Card hunt. Tonight they welcome the Los Angeles Angels (53-63) to the Bronx for a four-game series at the Stadium.

It’s a good opportunity for New York to build on what it just accomplished this weekend.

While it’s unknown how many victories the Yankees need to qualify for the playoffs, 90 just might be the number -- if you want to be optimistic. To get there, New York would have to go 31-15 in its final 46 games.

Looks pretty daunting. The Yankees will obviously look to take it one game a time. They don’t have a choice.

Alex Rodriguez hitting his first home run of the year Sunday was big. The Yankees are going to need him to produce. They could use more than a couple 2-for-4, two-RBI ballgames from him.

Mariano Rivera, though, has blown three consecutive saves for the first time in his career. Luckily, he won’t be facing Miguel Cabrera anymore. This is also big.

Still, the Yankees can’t afford to only get quality starts from Hiroki Kuroda, Monday’s starter, and Ivan Nova, who will go Wednesday. They need something out of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettite, and lately, they haven’t been getting much.

Offensively, the Yankees’ lineup is as good as it’s been in awhile. Now that Curtis Granderson and A-Rod are back and Soriano is here, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki have some help.

As many of the players in the clubhouse said after Sunday’s dramatic 5-4 walk-off victory against the Tigers, they have to start winning series.

Maybe beating Verlander galvanizes them the way it did earlier in the season.

UP NOW: A-Rod homered, Mo blew another, but Gardy played walk-off hero again. Plus notes leading with Derek Jeter possibly going back to rehab in Tampa when the Yankees hit the road again Friday.

ON DECK: Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 2.45 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20). First pitch, 7:05 p.m. Wallace Matthews and Matt Ehalt will have you covered from the Bronx. Please continue to frequent the blog for the latest updates, and, as always, thanks for reading.