Andy Pettitte will look to get 20 wins for the second time in his career and help the New York Yankees move closer to clinching their sixth straight AL East title as they continue a weekend series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
Pettitte, who has reached the 19-win mark for the second time in four years and third time overall, won a career-high 21 games in 1996, his second season in the majors.
“It would be nice,” Pettitte said. “I’ve always said you don’t worry about it until you get to 19. And I’m there now.”
He should have an easy chance against the Devil Rays, as the Yankees have won 12 of 17 meetings this year and Pettitte has a 10-1 career mark against Tampa Bay—including nine straight wins.
The Yankees won the series opener 2-1 Friday for their 11th victory in 13 games, and reduced their magic number for winning the division to five.
The Yankees are five wins away from reaching 100 for the second straight year, and third in the last six.
After struggling in September last season as he tried to get to 40 homers, Alfonso Soriano is in a hitting surge this time. Soriano hit his 33rd homer, connecting on the third pitch of the game, to match the single-season mark for leadoff homers of 12 set by Baltimore’s Brady Anderson in 1996.
“I never thought I would tie with Brady Anderson,” Soriano said.
It was the 20th leadoff homer of Soriano’s career and extended New York’s major league mark for leadoff homers in a season to 14.
Jose Contreras, who’s struggled at times since signing a $32 million, four-year contract last winter, allowed one run and four hits in seven innings to improve to 5-1 in eight starts. Tampa Bay’s only run scored in the sixth on Rocco Baldelli’s groundout.
Tampa Bay lost for the ninth time in 11 games after a stretch in which it won five of six. The Devil Rays need three wins in their last nine games to avoid reaching 100 losses for the third straight year.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Devil Rays - 5th place, 35 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Pettitte (19-8, 4.22 ERA). The left-hander is facing the Devil Rays for only the second time this season. He gave up five runs and 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings of an 8-5 win against them on June 25.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jorge Sosa (5-11, 4.49 ERA). The Dominican right-hander, shuffled between the rotation and bullpen this season, makes his fifth straight start. He has lost consecutive starts against Toronto and Boston, allowing a total of 10 runs and 16 hits in 11 2-3 innings. Sosa has made two relief appearances against the Yankees this year, giving up four runs and nine hits in three innings. He is 0-1 with a 9.49 ERA in seven appearances—including one start—against them.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .32 avg.; Jason Giambi, 39 HRs; Hideki Matsui, 104 RBIs; Soriano, 107 runs and 34 SBs. Devil Rays - Aubrey Huff, .308 avg., 31 HRs and 102 RBIs; Baldelli, 86 runs; Carl Crawford, 51 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 12-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - RHP Mariano Rivera has 39 saves in 45 opportunities. He has pitched 13 1-3 scoreless innings over his last 12 appearances. … The Yankees have hit nine homers in the first five games of their 10-game road trip. … OF David Dellucci, sidelined since Aug. 28 by a sprained left ankle, will take batting practice Saturday. Dellucci could rejoin the Yankees by late next week. Devil Rays - OF Delmon Young is scheduled to take part in his pro workout Saturday when the Devil Rays start their Florida instructional league program. Young was taken first overall in June’s amateur draft and signed a $5.8 million, five-year contract earlier this month. … Tampa Bay leads the AL in walks allowed (612), hit batters (87) and wild pitches (62). The last team to lead the league in all three categories was the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays. … The crowd of 21,435 on Friday was the fourth-largest at Tropicana Field this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 48-27 on the road; Devil Rays - 34-42 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - OF Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 60-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.
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