June 8, 2009

Four homers haunt Rays, Yankees win 5-3

The Yankees (34-23) used four long balls and quality pitching to beat the Rays (29-30) 5-3, and won their fourth consecutive series. They also lead all teams with 92 homers, but more importantly, they expanded their AL East lead to a full game.

Quick ‘Cap:
The Yankees wasted no time getting on the board, opening with another tape-measure shot from Mark Teixeira in the first. In the second, Nick Swisher hit a no-doubter; a two-run shot to give the Yanks a 3-0 lead.

Andy Pettitte was dealing early on, striking out six Rays in the first three innings. But Ben Zobrist started off the fourth by reaching on an error by Alex Rodriguez, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single. Gabe Kapler tied the game up on a two-run shot to left. Pettitte recovered and made it through the fifth and sixth quickly, and then handed the ball off to Phil Hughes, who hadn’t pitched in seven days.

Now with a 4-3 lead after Johnny Damon’s homer, Hughes brought the heat —96 to be exact— and breezed through the seventh. Phil Coke came in for the eighth (I don’t know why), but made it through the inning only allowing a walk. Derek Jeter added an insurance run in the eighth for Mariano Rivera. Rivera, pitching for the third straight game, did his thing for the 14th time this season. Full box score here.

The balls just continue to fly out of Yankee Stadium: four by the Yankees (all to right field), and one by the Rays (to left). In my last poll, people were complaining about it, but it sure makes great TV!

Give Pettitte credit (that rhymed) for settling down in the fifth and sixth. It is crucial that those innings are pitched by the starter, and Pettitte legged it out.

Joe Girardi handled the bullpen a little differently than I would have, but it worked out (for now). Using Rivera again was a questionable call, because now he is definitely not available for tomorrow’s game. I would have let Hughes try to finish out the game, especially since he was looking really, really good.

Noteworthy Performances:
- The Yankees’ top three hitters might be the best in baseball. Jeter, Damon and Teixeira homered. They have 38 homers and 111 RBI combined.
- Pettitte pitched a solid game: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. He lowered his ERA to 4.22 (gulp).
- Rivera lost the first game of this series, and people started to doubt him, again. Rivera responded with two perfect saves in a row against the same team. How does he do it?

Streaks and Rankings:
- Following the Yanks’ record-setting errorless streak, they have committed at least one error in six straight games.
- All 29 games at the new stadium have seen at least one home run.
- Teixeira leads the AL with 18 homers (14 at home).

Up Next:
The Yankees head to Boston for their third meeting of the season, and will seek their first win against their rivals. Tuesday night’s affair will feature A.J. Burnett (4-2, 4.69) and Josh Beckett (6-2, 4.09).

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