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DET@MIN: Diamond pitches 5 2/3 solid frames

The poise was all too tangible during the Yankees' Sunday night game against the Orioles.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, their opponents were the ones sweating confidence.

The O's swept their American League East foes in a three-game series this weekend. And while it's no secret that the Yankees haven't played great in June, their 11-16 record could've been much worse.

The Yankees ranked last in runs scored during the month. Their pitching staff ranked 26th in ERA. The season is halfway over and the Yankees are 6 1/2 games back in the AL East standings. Panic time? No way.

"We're definitely in striking distance," said manager Joe Girardi. "We're in the middle of our division right now. You'd like to be better, but it's not the case. It should be a very interesting second half."

July presents a clean slate for the Bronx Bombers, and they'll start it with a four-game series against the Twins, against whom they haven't dropped a season series in 11 years.

And New York will trot out a pitcher who is undefeated in his last seven starts against Minnesota.

Andy Pettitte may be 41, but he's been a reliable starter for his longtime club yet again this season. While he's 2-6 over his last 10 games, he's pitched at least six innings in four straight.

His strikeout and walk totals are almost identical to the numbers he posted last year, when the lefty had a 2.87 ERA over 75 1/3 innings. But hitters have seen the ball a little bigger off Pettitte this year, hitting .272 as opposed to last year's .232.

"He had the real good first month and then he kind of went through some starts where he felt like he didn't have all his weapons," Girardi said. "I think he's had them all now again. One inning here or there is what's cost him."

The Twins finished June with a 13-13 record, the first month they were at or above .500 this season. Their offense is still looking to become more consistent, but their .261 batting average in June was a step up from April (.239) and May (.244).

"We just had the one bad [losing streak], and if we could stay away from stuff like that and become a little more consistent, we're a fun team to watch," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's fun for me. I think the fans like it a little bit better than they have the last couple of years. We've got some issues, absolutely. We've got things we're not clicking -- pitching and hitting together. We've got some guys we really need to get swinging better, but it's actually a pretty fun group with some young kids mixed in, which makes it pretty interesting for going on down the road."

Scott Diamond takes the mound on Monday, and he's had trouble the later he gets into games this season. In his last start on Wednesday in Miami, Diamond worked efficiently through four innings, giving up only two hits, before falling apart in the fifth, when he gave up three runs on five hits, including a home run.

Diamond's last quality start was a six-inning outing on June 2 vs. Seattle at Target Field in a 10-0 win. Since, Diamond has gone 1-3 in his last four starts.

Twins: Trying to break the slump
Eduardo Escobar electrified with his .378 average in the month of April, but has done little since, posting a .148 average in May and June.

The Twins gave him the starting nod on Sunday after three days off as they try to get the middle infielder rolling, but he went 0-for-3.

"He's had some games after he hadn't played two or three games, four games, and he always seems to come up with some hits," Gardenhire said. "I know he needs to play right now. He's sat through this whole [Royals] series. He needs to play. He needs to feel a part of it. He works too hard not to."

Yankees: Pineda could stay in Minors
Michael Pineda was knocked around for four runs in three innings during a rehab assignment for Double-A Trenton.

Girardi said Pineda's velocity is fine, but the Yankees have not yet discussed the possibility of Pineda joining the big league roster when his assignment is done in early July. General manager Brian Cashman has said it's possible the Yankees would keep Pineda in Triple-A.

"If he can help us -- if Brian thinks he can help us -- I'm sure we'd bring him," Girardi said.

Worth noting
• Josh Willingham wasn't in the lineup again on Sunday, earning another day of rest while nursing his sore knee. He had a pinch-hit, RBI double in the seventh inning.

• Derek Jeter has progressed after working through simulated at-bats in Tampa, Fla., and could begin his Minor League rehab assignment soon. He'll likely need 20 days in the Minors before his return.

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