NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher keeps a poster-sized version of the Yankees' schedule taped to a wall of his locker, celebrating the passing of each game with a squeaking marker, but you could have excused him if he'd allowed the date to slip forward a few months.
There were plenty of eyes on the action as the American League's top clubs met on Monday, and the Yankees savored every bit of the playoff atmosphere, slugging out an 8-2 victory over the Rangers at Yankee Stadium for their fifth win in six contests.
"I just think there's so much media attention around this series, taking the two best teams in the American League and battling up against each other," Swisher said. "You can feel the electricity on the field. We had a packed house tonight."
Swisher gave those flickering flashbulbs something to document, connecting for the sixth grand slam of his career as part of a five-run Yankees third inning against Texas right-hander Ryan Dempster.
Filling in for the injured CC Sabathia, rookie David Phelps pitched five innings of two-run ball to earn the victory, and 39-year-old veteran Derek Lowe made his Yankees debut with four scoreless innings of relief, picking up a save.
"I don't know how you can ask two guys to do any more than that," manager Joe Girardi said. "To hold a team like Texas down to two runs and give yourself a chance to win a ballgame, that's really stepping up."
The Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate in the third inning -- a frame highlighted by Swisher's blast into the second deck in right field, marking his 200th career home run. New York has now hit nine grand slams this season, one shy of a club record shared between the 1987, 2010 and 2011 clubs.
"For me, man, I'm just trying to put something in the air," said Swisher, who also hit a grand slam April 21 off the Red Sox's Vicente Padilla. "At least get one of them. That's all you're thinking in that spot. He just kind of missed with a little cutter over the plate and I put the barrel on it."
Curtis Granderson added a sacrifice fly to stake Phelps to a lead he wouldn't relinquish. Phelps was asked to give the Yankees five innings, and he did that, something that appeared improbable when Texas made him work for 26 pitches in the first inning.
"It's great. It's what I've done my whole career," Phelps said. "It's what I did through college, through my whole baseball career from Little League. It's great to go out there in this type of game and give your team a chance to win."
A stellar pickoff move helped Phelps limit the Rangers to two runs, scoring on Nelson Cruz's broken-bat RBI single in the first inning and David Murphy's solo home run in the second inning.
Phelps nabbed Ian Kinsler leaning off first base to end the second inning and whirled to gun down Elvis Andrus at second base in the third inning, completing his 78-pitch outing scattering six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
"He's just focused out there," catcher Russell Martin said. "He doesn't let anything get to him. He just competes, pitch after pitch. He's the type of guy you like having out there. He works fast."
Dempster wasn't so lucky, hit for eight runs and nine hits in six-plus innings. Eric Chavez blasted a sixth-inning homer into the Yankees' bullpen, and New York chased Dempster in the seventh as Ichiro Suzuki tripled and scored on a Derek Jeter double.
Jeter came home with the eighth run charged to Dempster, scoring on Swisher's RBI single off Michael Kirkman.
"You make mistakes, they make you pay," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "That's what they do. They're a veteran club. They know how to make adjustments and they know how to hit. You've got to keep the ball down."
The sinker-balling Lowe has made a living doing just that. Released by the Indians earlier this month, Lowe officially joined the Yankees on Monday and found himself on the mound just hours later, donning the No. 34 vacated in February by the departure of A.J. Burnett to the Pirates.
Burnett has found a new lease on his baseball life in Pittsburgh, and with the help of some mechanical tweaks Lowe incorporated during his time off in Fort Myers, Fla., perhaps he will also benefit from this change of scenery.
"That was the same guy that I caught in L.A. a couple of years ago," Martin raved. "[He had] great stuff today and it just kept getting better every inning."
Lowe said he missed and craved the excitement of an East Coast pennant race, and as he struck out four around two harmless singles, it seemed that his wish may have been granted.
"So far, so good," Lowe said. "I'm not going to do jumping jacks tonight because you pitch one good game. We're in this for the long haul, and we've just got to continue to work."