After a long day of baseball, the New York Yankees send Andy Pettitte to the mound as they look to take three of four games for the third straight series when they meet the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday.
New York (50-46) swept a doubleheader from the Devil Rays on Saturday to improve to 5-2 on an eight-game homestand. The Yankees won three of four from Toronto at home, after opening the season’s second half by winning three of four at Tampa Bay.
They pulled within 7 1/2 games of first-place Boston in the AL East, and are 8-3 on a 28-game stretch against opponents with losing records. New York doesn’t play another winning team until beginning a three-game series in Cleveland on Aug. 10.
Pettitte (5-6, 4.10 ERA) is 12-1 with 3.27 ERA in his career against the Devil Rays (38-59), and has won 11 straight decisions over them. He’s 1-0 with a 4.66 ERA in two starts versus Tampa Bay this season after allowing three runs over 5 2-3 innings to win 7-3 on July 12 at Tropicana Field.
The left-hander was outstanding in his last outing, giving up one run and seven hits over seven innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win over Toronto on Tuesday. He had been 0-1 with a 20.25 ERA in his previous two outings at Yankee Stadium.
Although Yankee starters are 0-1 with a 7.53 ERA in this series, the offense bailed them out in Saturday’s doubleheader. Shelley Duncan capped a five-run outburst in the sixth inning of the first game with a two-run homer in a 7-3 victory, and Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with four RBIs as one of numerous stars in a 17-5 win in the nightcap.
Rodriguez hit his major league-leading 33rd homer and scored four runs in the twinbill to increase his total to 91, also the best in baseball. He’s three homers shy of 500 for his career and four RBIs away from reaching 100 for the 10th straight season.
“We were swinging the bats and that made things a lot easier,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “We didn’t have any dry innings. We had some tired puppies out there but they didn’t give away an at-bat.”
New York reliever Luis Vizcaino pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings over the two games to become the first Yankee to win twice in a doubleheader since Lindy McDaniel on May 24, 1970, at Cleveland. Vizcaino is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in nine appearances against Tampa Bay this year.
The Yankees also made a minor deal Saturday, acquiring backup catcher Jose Molina from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Jeff Kennard. Molina batted .224 in 40 games for the Angels in 2007.
Devil Rays left fielder Carl Crawford left the first game with a sprained left ankle that he hurt beating out an infield single. X-rays were negative, but he didn’t play in the nightcap.
Tampa Bay will hand the ball to its staff wins leader, James Shields (8-5, 3.91). The right-hander, however, is 0-3 with a 6.12 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees, losing opposite Pettitte on July 12 by allowing six runs over six innings.
Shields bounced back from that loss by beating the Angels on Tuesday, giving up two runs over seven innings in an 8-3 win.