YANKEES 6, RAYS 2
Tell Joba Chamberlain he is not a starter. Tell him he doesn’t pitch deep into games. Tell that that he belongs in the bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain will tell you all of that is wrong.
He also showed the Rays they were wrong in an overpowering eight innings of three-hit shutout baseball Wednesday night as the New York Yankees put the Rays right back where they were after they lost to the Yankees on Monday night.
The Yankees 6-2 victory at Tropicana Field pushed the Rays to 7 1/2 games back in third place in the American East race. The Boston Red Sox lost to the hapless Oakland Athletics for the second straight night by an 8-6 score to fall 3 1/2 games behind of the Yankees.
Is there a phone line burning between Boston and Toronto tonight?
Chamberlain put on a Roy Halladay-like display of his own against a punchless Rays team, winning his third straight start.
“It’s just having confidence again, going out and being yourself,” Chamberlain told MLB.com. “You always need a little reminder once in a while, but it’s just going back to having fun and being aggressive.”
Chamberlain (7-2) struck out five and walked two and is now 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA after the All-Star Break.
“Since he’s come back from the break, he’s done everything that we expected him to do,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can’t expect him to be perfect all the time, but he’s throwing the ball so well and mixing all of his pitches in. His last three starts are as good a run as he’s had.”
“It’s the best performance we’ve ever seen from him,” Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon told MLB.com. “The pace of game was great, and that’s what we like to see. If we can see that all the time, you’ve got another guy like Roger Clemens out there.”
The Yankees roughed up Rays starter Matt Garza (7-8) early and often. They took an early 1-0 lead after Derek Jeter tripled to right to start the game and Mark Teixeira drove him in a batter later with a single.
In the fourth inning, the Yankees, who were bloop hit to death the evening before, got a bloop single of their own off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. DH Hideki Matsui then moved him to third with an opposite field double in the left-field corner. Robinson Cano scored A-Rod on an RBI grounder.
Cano made it 3-0 with two out in the sixth on a long blast to left center when Garza left a 1-2 slider over the plate. Garza actually knew the ball was gone and waved to it as it landed in the bleachers. It was Cano’s 16th home run of the season.
Garza also had to escape big jams in the third and fifth innings. He left after seven innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks.
The Yankees were able to tack on single runs in the eight and ninth innings off a shaky Rays bullpen. Jorge Posada contributed a run-scoring single in the eighth and Teixeira regained a tie with Justin Morneau for the American League lead in home runs by belting his 26th almost directly to centerfield.
The only concerning moment was in the ninth inning when reliever Brian Bruney coughed up a two-run home run by Evan Longoria. One out later, after Carlos Pena singled Girardi called on Mariano Rivera to close out the Rays. Despite a rare walk, Rivera fanned two batters to nail down the Yankees’ 11th victory in 13 games.
But all the Yankees could talk about was how dominant their 23-year-old starter was.
“He’s throwing the ball so well, and he’s throwing so many strikes,” Girardi said. “His stuff is crisp. I think that’s the biggest difference.”
The Yankees will now ride their hot streak into Chicago to take on the White Sox on Thursday night.
Veteran lefty Andy Pettitte (8-6, 4.67 ERA) tries for his victory since July 1 in the opener at US Celluar Field. Pettitte actually held the Athletics to two hits in six scoreless innings before he faltered. But reliever Alfredo Aceves allowed all his inherited runners to score and Pettitte was charged with giving up four earned runs. Pettitte has not faced the White Sox this season.
The White Sox will send out righty Gavin Floyd (8-6, 4.24 ERA). Floyd gave up two runs — one earned — in 6 2/3 innings in his last start against the Tigers on Saturday. He ended up with a no-decision when closer Bobby Jenks blew his second straight save in the ninth inning. Floyd has career record of 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA against the Yankees.
Gametime is 8:11 p.m. EDT and it will be nationally broadcast live by MLB-TV.
NOTES . . . Chien-Ming Wang had season-ending surgery Wednesday on his right shoulder capsule by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL, and he will miss the rest of the season. Wang has been on the 15-day disabled list with a sore shoulder and bursitis. After a period of rest Wang felt discomfort on his biceps during his first throwing session. Examinations by Yankees team doctors and Andrews confirmed surgery was necessary. It is not known how long Wang will need to recover. He finished the season with a 1-6 record and 9.64 ERA in 12 games (nine starts). Wang was on the DL earlier this season with weakness in both abductor muscles in his hips. Last season Wang had his season cut short on June 15 when he suffered a sprain of the lisfranc ligament in his foot running the bases in Houston . . . The Yankees received a special surprise visit before the game from George Steinbrenner in the visitors clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. In the half-hour visit the 79-year-old principal owner told the team to keep up the good work. The team promptly did just that and best the Rays . . . The Yankees officially released right-hand reliever Brett Tomko. Tomko had been designated for assignment when the club called up Sergio Mitre to take Wang’s spot in the rotation . . . The Yankees also acquired right-hander Jason Hirsh from the Colorado Rockies and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. GM Brian Cashman said the move was to add minor-league pitching depth lost with Wang out and Mitre having been recalled . . . The Yankees reportedly are sitting out the Roy Halladay sweepstakes but they are watching closely to see where he might end up. The rival Red Sox have apparently dangled Clay Buchholz and prospects for Halladay but the Jays apparently are driving a hard bargain for the former Cy Young Award-winner. The Yankees, who would have to part with Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to even start discussions with the Jays, are just hoping Halladay does not end up in their division and they would be ecstatic if he went to a National League club. The trade deadline is 4 p.m. EDT on Friday.