Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yanks Head To Boston On A High

Johnny Damon made sure the Yankees would be heading to Boston on a roll.

Damon homered in the sixth inning to give break a tie and the Yankees broke out the heavy lumber to beat the Rays 5-3 Monday at Yankee Stadium to even the season series against Tampa at 4 and move a full game ahead of the Sox in the AL East heading into Tuesday's big showdown.

The Yankees are an AL-best 34-23 and are the only team in the majors to have won every game (21) in which they've held the opposition to three runs or less. They are 21-8 since Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup May 8 and have won 8 of 9 series in that span.

Monday, they rode the long ball to the win. They had only six hits, but four were homers and they did not have an at-bat with a runner in scoring position for the first time since May 14, 2006.

Mark Teixeira got it started with a mammoth, two-out homer to right in the first. It was his league-leading 18th homers and over the past 30 days, he's hitting .375 with 12 homers.

Nick Swisher continued his recent tear, launching a two-run homer in the second. After a dreadful cold spell in May, Swisher is red-hot, going 14-for-31 (.452) with three homers in his last 10 games.

And with a 3-0 lead, the Yankees appeared ready to cruise.

After escaping a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the first, Andy Pettitte pitched a dominant second and third. But he ran into trouble in the fourth.

Alex Rodriguez flubbed a ground by Ben Zobrist, giving the the Yankees an error in each of their last six games after going 18 straight without one. Zobrist advanced to second on a wild pitch and went to third on Joe Dillon's fly to right. Michel Hernandez followed with an RBI single and Gabe Kapler tied the score with a homer.

Pettitte settled down after that, getting Reid Brignac to ground out and Carl Crawford to fly out, walking B.J. Upton in between.

But Pettitte cruised after that, picking up his sixth win of the season. He allowed five hits and three walks in six innings, striking out seven and throwing 64 of 104 pitches for strikes.

It was major turnaround from his previous two outings, in which he walked 11 and 10 inning.

But when Pettitte walked off the mound in the sixth, he didn't have the lead. Damon made sure to remedy that, lofting a high fly off Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine into the stands in right. It was Damon's 12 homer of the season, his ninth at Yankee Stadium, which has yielded 105 in 29 games. Last season, there were 160 hit at the old Yankee Stadium all season.

But Damon didn't think this shot would go out.

"I just have to remember that I am strong and my will could will the ball out,"
Damon said.

Meanwhile, the Yankees turned the ball over toe Phil Hughes in seventh, making his first regular-season appearance out of the bullpen since being removed from the rotation in favor of Chien-Ming Wang.

He was impressive, setting down the side in order on 11 pitches, striking out one. His fastball hit as high as 96 mph and it seemed like he would come out for the eighth.

But he didn't.

With the Yankees holding a one-run lead and Carlos Pena set to lead off, Joe Girardi made the move to Phil Coke because Pena is 2-for-3 with two homers in his career against Hughes. Coke struck out Pena and finished the inning, walking one and striking out one.

Derek Jeter made sure to give Mariano Rivera a little more breathing room, hitting his eighth homer of the season, sixth at Yankee Stadium.

And for the second straight day, Rivera had no problem finishing off the Rays, retiring the side on 11 pitches.

There was a little bit of bad news to come out of the game. Rivera pitched for the third straight day and will not be available Tuesday for the series opener at Boston. In addition, Hughes will not be available either, leaving Coke or Alfredo Aceves as the likely closer candidates.
But that's a problem for the next game.

This was a great way to finish off a division rival as the Yankees roll into Fenway.

Runners In Scoring Position
140-for-524 (.267)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
74-for-256 (.289)

Up Next
Tuesday at Boston, 7:05 p.m., NESN and Local TV (check your listings)
A.J. Burnett (4-2, 4.69 ERA) vs. Josh Burnett (6-2, 4.09)

Burnett has been a Sox killer, going 5-0 with a 3.52 ERA in his career, but he got killed in a no-decision in his last outing at Fenway, allowing eight runs in five innings. He'll have to be at his best against Burnett, who has rediscovered his ace form and is on top of his game.

1 comment:

mondoas said...

I would love to see them go up to Chawderville and sweep but worst case scenario would be 2 out of 3. We need to start showing we are no pushovers.