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Yankees vs. Mariners series preview: And we're back

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball returns from its week off tonight, thank goodness, and the Yankees kick off their unofficial second half with a three-game series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium. New York gets to send their top two starters to the mound in the first and second games of the series before turning to CC Sabathia to close things out on Sunday.

The Yankees, as you know, currently sit atop the AL East by 3.5 games and have won seven of their last ten. Seattle, on the other hand, finds themselves in fourth place in the AL West, 7.5 games behind the division-leading Angels. The first half was full of some fairly disappointing series for the Yankees in which they lost games and series to inferior opponents that kept them from being able to distance themselves from their division rivals. Taking care of business against the Mariners this weekend would be a nice way to kick off the second half and not fall victim to that annoying pattern that plagued them a bit before the All-Star break.

Matching up against Tanaka and Pineda will be Mike Montgomery and Hisashi Iwakuma, respectively. Montgomery got roughed up by the Angels in his last start before the All-Star Game, surrendering five runs in five innings on July 10th. Iwakuma, on the other hand, shut out the Angels for eight innings the very next day on the way to a 5-0 win for Seattle. Both Pineda and Tanaka are coming off wins in their last starts with Pineda taking care of business in Boston and Tanaka picking up a win against the Athletics.

Perhaps the most notable thing about tonight's game is that Rob Refsnyder is getting another start at second base. Montgomery is another lefty and the Yankees are comfortable with what the young prospect can do against southpaws. He was brought up for the final two games in Boston perhaps specifically because two left-handers were starting. Iwakuma is a righty, though, so tomorrow could be telling.

Brendan Ryan was activated from the disabled list and Gregorio Petit was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Carlos Beltran was previously expected to be activated before tonight's game but that seems like it will be tomorrow at the earliest. The Yankees will have a decision to make when they bring Beltran back, needing to clear room on the roster for him. One of Stephen Drew, Refsnyder, or Ryan will likely have to go. The Yankees love Drew and seem dedicated, at least at this moment, to seeing what they have in Refsnyder. Does that mean that Ryan's return is basically just a one-day stay of execution, or is the team finally willing to cut ties with Drew entirely after basically giving his job to Refsnyder? We should know around this time tomorrow.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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