“He didn’t really give us many opportunities to score,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria told MLB.com. “He’s tough. He throws to both sides of the plate and throws hard. I thought our at-bats were OK against him, but we didn’t do a good job really getting to him.”
“He’s one of those guys that you hate facing, but you love him on your team,” Nick Swisher said. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s a gamer. Everybody sees how he goes about his business. On game day, you don’t even talk to him. He’s just completely focused all day, and tonight, he went out there and did an awesome job for us.”
B.J. Upton singled to leftfield in the third inning and Carl Crawford singled to rightfield in the sixth inning for the Rays sum total of offense against Burnett. Upton, who had reached base on a third strike passed ball by Jorge Posada, scored in the sixth on a double play off the bat of Longoria.
The Yankees offense did the rest. The Yankees pounded Tampa Bay ace James Shields (6-7) for five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees scored three runs in the second inning, keyed by an RBI triple by Robinson Cano that scored Posada, who had just doubled in Hideki Matsui for the first run. Cano later scored the third on an RBI groundout by Swisher.
The Yankees tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning on back-to-b
ack home runs by Cano and Swisher, both of them hitting their 15th homers of the season
The Yankees turned it into a laugher by scoring six runs in the final two innings. Alex Rodriguez, celebrating his 34th birthday, plated two runs a single in the eighth to make it 7-1. After the Rays added two runs in their half of the eighth off Jonathan Albaladejo, Nick Swisher connected for another home run and Johnny Damon added a three-run shot to send most of of what was left of the 33,442 fans at Tropicana Field home.
Swisher connected for home runs from both sides of the plate for the second time this season. It is the 13th multiple home run night of his career.
Damon’s home run was his 17th of the season and the 200th of his career.
The Yankees are now a season-high 23 games over .500 this season (61-38), the best record in the American League and just one game off the pace of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors.
They will have a chance to deal a serious blow to the Rays’ hopes to get back into the division race with a victory on Tuesday. They will send ace lefty CC Sabathia (10-6, 3.87 ERA) to the hill. Sabathia will be looking for his third straight victory. In his last outing he gave up three runs in seven innings in a 6-3 victory over Oakland at Yankee Stadium. He earned a no decision against the Rays on June 6 in New York after allowing five runs (four earned ) in eight innings.
Sabathia’s opponent will be lefty Scott Kazmir (4-6, 6.69), who was the unfortunate losing pitcher in White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle’s 5-0 perfect game victory last Thursday over the Rays. Kazmir served up a grand slam home run to Josh Fields that provided all the offense Buehrle needed. Kazmir is 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 career starts against the Yankees.
Gametime will be 7:05 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . The Yankees decided not to option either pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo or Mark Melancon to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Instead they elected to keep 13 pitchers for the road trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto. That means the Yankees have opted not to replace Brett Gardner, who is on the 15-day DL with a broken left thumb, with another outfielder. That means the Yankees will back up centerfielder Melky Cabrera with either Nick Swisher or Johnny Damon . . . In a personal note, I will be attending Tuesday night’s game. I hope to be able to speak to some of the players and get some insights before and after the game. So stay tuned to my blog and I will hope to have some inside stuff for you all.