Yankees 7, Devil Rays 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The New York Yankees are only concerned about postseason success. They don’t celebrate when they reach the playoffs.
“We’re not playing for the wild card,” shortstop Derek Jeter said. “We don’t go into a season saying, `Let’s win a playoff spot.’ The first step is to win the division and we haven’t done that yet.”
They’re getting close, though. The Yankees won for the 12th time in 14 games to climb a season-high 38 games over .500 and reduce their magic number to win their sixth consecutive AL East title to two.
“It’s nice. But again, our vision is a little bit further,” Pettitte said.
Yankees manager Joe Torre agreed.
“When we start spring training, our goal is higher than that. Just getting there is not something that satisfies us enough to celebrate that. Winning the division, yeah we’ll celebrate that. That means you’re one of the best.”
Devil Rays reliever Jon Switzer was ejected in the ninth inning after Jeter was hit by a pitch for the second straight inning. Brandon Backe plunked the Yankees’ shortstop in the eighth, and Switzer hit Bernie Williams later in the inning.
Jeter, who went 2-for-3, was hit for the second time after New York’s Jeff Nelson hit Pete LaForest in the bottom of the eighth. Switzer was ejected by plate umpire Tim Welke over the objection of Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella.
“He thought that Switzer was throwing at Jeter. … It was just a cut fastball that got away,” said Piniella, adding that the pitch that hit Williams was a slider that was in the dirt.
Switzer, a rookie left-hander, was surprised he was tossed, considering no warnings were issued.
“There’s nothing to ‘fess up to,” Switzer said. “The pitch got away from me.”
Backe’s pitch brushed Jeter’s shirt. Switzer hit him in the left hamstring. Although the shortstop said he was fine, Torre plans to give him a day off Sunday.
“The only thing I found hard to believe was Lou coming out and arguing it wasn’t on purpose,” Torre said.
Pettitte (20-8), who has won 15 of 17 decisions since June 14, allowed eight hits, struck out nine and walked one in seven innings to improve to 11-1 lifetime against the Devil Rays, who scored on Carl Crawford’s RBI single in the second inning.
Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs for the Yankees, who also got an RBI single from Jason Giambi in the first and a run-scoring double from Williams that gave New York a 3-1 lead against Jorge Sosa (5-12).
Pettitte beat the Devil Rays for the 10th straight time. His other 20-win season came in 1996, when he finished 21-8.
The left-hander struck out seven of 10 batters during one stretch and only allowed one runner past first base after Adam Piatt doubled and scored on Crawford’s hit in the second.
The Yankees broke the game open in the eighth on Posada’s career-high 29th homer and Alfonso Soriano’s two-run double. Posada is one homer shy of Yogi Berra’s single-season club record for home runs by a catcher.
“They wore us down today. We’re just not scoring any runs, though. That’s the biggest problem,” Piniella said.
After giving up singles to Giambi and Soriano in the first, Sosa held the Yankees to one hit—Jeter’s one-out single in the third—over the next four innings. Karim Garcia drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, but was erased on an inning-ending double play.
Jeter’s second hit—a single leading off the sixth—was the beginning of the end for Sosa, who departed after Posada and Williams followed with run-scoring doubles to give Pettitte a 3-1 cushion.
Sosa allowed six hits, struck out two and walked two in 5 1-3 innings.
Piatt was 0-for-15 lifetime against Pettitte before hitting a double and scoring on Crawford’s RBI single. … After making just three errors in their previous 22 games, the Devil Rays had two Saturday night. … Pitchers have sought 20th wins against Tampa Bay three times in the team’s brief history, and each time they’ve gotten it. Toronto’s Roy Halladay did it earlier this month at Tropicana Field and New York’s David Cone did it at Yankee Stadium in 1998. … Pettitte is 9-4 at home and 11-4 on the road. … The Yankees have won 13 of 17 between the teams this season and improved the bestroad record in the majors to 49-27.