Rookie Doug Waechter has unbeaten in his big league career. In fact, he has won every time.
The 22-year-old right-hander will bid for his fourth win in as many appearances when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays try to avoid getting sweept in a four-game series with the AL East-leading New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Waechter, the Devil Rays’ third-round pick in the 1999 draft, made his big league debut on Aug. 27 against Seattle. He worked 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win in an 8-4 triumph, impressing manager Lou Piniella enough to earn a start against the Mariners on Sept. 3.
Waechter, who went 8-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 23 minor league appearances this year, rewarded his manager by becoming the first Devil Rays pitcher to toss a shutout in his first career start, blanking Seattle 7-0 on a two-hitter.
Things got a little rougher for Waechter against Toronto on Tuesday, but he still came out on top, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings of an 11-6 victory.
“Never,” said Waechter, when asked if ever thought about winning each of his first three major league appearances. “I’m still excited to be up here. I really am. It’s still a shock to me coming to this ballpark everyday. From being in the minor leagues for four or five years, it’s still a shock to come to a major league ballfield and call it the office.”
Waechter will try to help the Devil Rays avoid a sweep.
New York swept a day-night doubleheader from Tampa Bay on Saturday, including a 6-3 victory in the nightcap.
Bernie Williams celebrated his 35th birthday with a pair of homers in the opener. Ruben Sierra hit the game-winning homer in the first game, and added a clutch two-run double in the nightcap as New York increased its advantage in the East to 5 1/2 games over Boston, which suffered a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The Yankees have won eight in a row, giving them the best record in the majors.
The Devil Rays, trying to avert losing 100 games for a third straight year, have lost five in a row since a three-game winning streak.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 33 1/2 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Waechter (3-0, 2.08 ERA). Waechter, who is making his first career appearance against New York, is also making his first road start.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Jose Contreras (5-2, 4.40 ERA). Contreras’ last outing was cut short after he sprained his left ankle during the fifth inning of New York’s 4-2 win over Detroit on Tuesday. The Cuban right-hander allowed two runs and five hits over 4 2-3 innings. Contreras is 4-1 in six starts this year after struggling out of the bullpen during his first two months in the big leagues. He also missed nearly three months with a shoulder injury before returning to the rotation in late August. This is his first start against Tampa Bay.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Aubrey Huff, .315 avg., 30 HRs and 100 RBIs; Rocco Baldelli, 81 runs; Carl Crawford, 49 SBs. Yankees - Derek Jeter, .323 avg.; Jason Giambi, 38 HRs; Giambi and Hideki Matsui, 99 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 102 runs and 33 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 11-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - OF Huff became the second Tampa Bay player to reach 100 RBIs on Saturday. Fred McGriff did it in 1999 and 2000. … OF Crawford has hit safely in a career-high 13 games. … The Devil Rays have lost six straight to the Yankees. Yankees - RHP Mariano Rivera saved both endds of Saturday’s doubleheader, giving him 37 in 43 opportunities this year. He has not saved 40 since 2001, when he had a career-best 50. … OF Matsui went 0-for-4 in the second game after being taken to the hospital for X-rays on his knee after an eighth-inning collision with Tampa Bay LHP Joe Kennedy in the eighth inning of the opener. He needs one more RBI to become just the third Yankee to drive in 100 in his rookie year. Tony Lazzeri and Joe DiMaggio are the other two. … New York has won eight straight home games for the first time since July 26 to Aug. 14, 1998.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 24-47 on the road; Yankees - 46-30 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 David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.