ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—It’s been 94 years since a New York Yankees pitcher has dominated an opponent the way Kevin Brown has manhandled the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first two months of the season.
The right-hander beat the Devil Rays for the fourth time Saturday night, taking a one-hitter into the eighth inning before settling for a 5-3 victory that vaulted the Yankees into first place in the AL East.
“You probably wouldn’t expect to have that many starts against one team early in the season, but what can you do?” Brown said. “You have still got to prepare and make pitches.”
Brown became the first pitcher to get four victories against one team before June since Brooklyn’s Hugh Casey did it against the New York Giants in 1941, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jack Quinn was the last Yankees pitcher to do it—in 1910 against the Washington Senators.
“It’s two months into the season. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Brown said when asked again about his success against Tampa Bay. “There’s a lot of season left to go. I expect we’ll probably face each other a few more times.”
Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Enrique Wilson homered for the defending AL champions, who climbed to a season-high 12 games over .500 (30-18) with their sixth straight win on a 12-game road trip that ends Sunday.
Pitching on a week’s rest because he left the Yankees for two days to handle a personal matter, Brown (6-1) limited the Devil Rays to Toby Hall’s leadoff single in the third until Hall led off the eighth with his third home run of the season.
“He was excellent,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He seemed more relaxed for some reason. He seemed more calm tonight than I’ve seen him.”
Mariano Rivera, who got his 300th career save on Friday night, worked a hitless ninth to earn his AL-leading 18th save this season.
In Brown’s four starts against the Devil Rays, Tampa Bay has scored just six runs in 28 2-3 innings. The right-hander walked three, struck out five and allowed just one runner past first base until the eighth.
“Obviously he feels comfortable pitching against us,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “But he’s beaten a lot of other teams, too.”
Derek Jeter had an RBI single for the Yankees, who have won eight of their last 12 games. With Boston losing to Seattle earlier in the day, New York moved atop the AL East for the first time since May 21, a half-game up on the Red Sox.
Williams went 3-for-4 and hit his fifth home run off Mark Hendrickson (2-5) in the first inning. New York added a run in the fourth when Hideki Matsui walked, Sierra doubled off the left-field wall and Tony Clark grounded out.
Sierra homered for the second straight game in the sixth for a 3-0 lead. The Yankees have outhomered the Devil Rays 15-4 in seven games, and Tampa Bay has been outhomered by opponents 68-36 overall.
Jeter’s RBI single gave Brown a four-run lead and Williams’ third hit, with two outs in the sixth, chased Hendrickson, who allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out one in 5 2-3 innings.
Wilson hit a solo homer off Travis Harper in the eighth.
Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-4, extending his streak of reaching base safely to 37 games—matching the longest such stretch in his career. The reigning AL MVPalso reached safely in 37 straight in 1999 with Seattle.
McGriff made his first start for Tampa Bay since being called up from Triple-A Durham, batting fourth. Tino Martinez, who usually bats cleanup, is 4-for-41 lifetime against Brown and had the night off. … McGriff, who has 491 career home runs, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … New York C Jorge Posada has drawn a walk in a career-best 13 consecutive games. … Williamsneeds 10 hits to become the seventh Yankee to reach 2,000 in his career.