One day after getting his second four-hit game of the season, Giambi should have plenty of chances to increase his average as the New York Yankees host Tampa Bay in a day-night doubleheader.
Mired in a 6-for-67 slump, including a career-worst 0-for-25 skid, which dropped his average to .246, Giambi went 4-for-5 and hit his 37th homer as the Yankees cruised to a 10-4 win over the Devil Rays in the series opener Friday.
Giambi is now hitting .405 (17-for-42) against Tampa Bay, his highest average against any American League opponent this season. The homer was just his third since Aug. 23.
“He doesn’t seem to be swinging as hard,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “I think Jason just had trouble getting through this thing. Tonight he looked a lot more relaxed, a lot more comfortable.”
New York has won six straight, including its first five in a stretch of 15 games against losing teams, to increase its AL East lead to four games over Boston.
“We’ve really tried to push ourselves not to let down after some big series,” Giambi said. “They’ve got some young talent over there trying to prove themselves in the big leagues so we can’t let down.”
After an encouraging relief outing against the Red Sox last Friday in which he allowed just one run and five hits in 4 2-3 innings, Jeff Weaver will make his 24th start of the season in the day game. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts against the Devil Rays this season.
In the night game, Mike Mussina will try to reach 17 wins for the third straight season, and fourth in the last five. Mussina is coming off a strong outing on Monday, as he limited Toronto to three runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a 9-3 win.
Tampa Bay has lost three straight after winning five of six.
This will be the teams’ second day-night doubleheader of the season. The night game is a makeup of a rainout on June 19—two days after the teams split two games.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 31 1/2 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
DEVIL RAYS FIRST GAME PROBABLE STARTER: Rob Bell (4-3, 5.38 ERA). The 26-year-old right-hander, called up from Triple-A Durham in June, will try to win consecutive starts for the first time this season. He limited Oakland to three runs and six hits in six innings of a 7-4 win last Saturday. Bell is 1-3 with a 12.98 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees.
YANKEES FIRST GAME PROBABLE STARTER: Weaver (7-9, 5.93 ERA). Weaver will make his first start since Aug. 18, when he gave up four runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings in an 11-6 win over Kansas City. He is 4-7 with a 5.05 ERA in 15 games, including 14 starts, against the Devil Rays.
DEVIL RAYS SECOND GAME PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Reyes (0-2, 4.82 ERA). The right-hander is making his first major league appearance since July 6, when he gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings against the Chicago White Sox. He was recalled from Durham on Sept. 5 after going 10-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 appearances, including 21 starts, with the Bulls. Reyes is 0-3 in 13 appearances, including three starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES SECOND GAME PROBABLE STARTER: Mussina (16-7, 3.24 ERA). If the veteran right-hander stays on course and pitches every five days, he will need to win all four possible starts to get his first career 20-win season. Mussina is 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 career starts against the Devil Rays.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Aubrey Huff, .313 avg., 30 HRs, 99 RBIs and 81 runs; Carl Crawford, 48 SBs. Yankees - Derek Jeter, .325 avg.; Giambi, 37 HRs; Hideki Matsui, 99 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 102 runs and 33 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 9-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - LF Crawford had an RBI single in the fourth inning Friday to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. … The Devil Rays recalled LHP Jon Switzer and purchased the contract of OF Jonny Gomes from Durham on Friday, a day after they helped win the club’s second straight International League championship. Gomes doubled down the left-field line in his first at-bat for his first major league hit … CF Rocco Baldelli had two assists Friday, giving him 13 for the season. Yankees - 3B Aaron Boone also broke out of a slump Friday, going 3-for-3 with a three-run homer. After hitting just .212 since coming over from the Reds on July 31, he has eight hits in his last 11 at-bats, raising his average to .229. … RHP Jose Contreras, who mildly sprained his left ankle Tuesday, threw in the bullpen Friday and feels he’s ready to take his regular turn Sunday. … The Yankees don’t know when OF David Dellucci, out with a sprained ankle since Aug. 28, will be ready to return. Dellucci still hasn’t taken batting practice and was sore after a lengthy workout Thursday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 24-46 on the road; Yankees - 45-30 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 60-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL. Yankees - OF Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.