NEW YORK (AP)—The rain stayed away—and so did the fans—but the runs came early Thursday for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees scored five times in the first two innings, Mike Mussina pitched eight sharp innings for his first win in more than 10 weeks and New York beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-1 in the first game of a doubleheader.
Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui each drove in two runs for the Yankees, who have won four in a row and entered the day two games ahead of Boston in the AL East. The Red Sox played at Seattle late Thursday night.
With the threat of heavy rain in the forecast and a mid-afternoon start time, only a few hundred fans were in the stands when the doubleheader started. A nearly empty Yankee Stadium more resembled a Montreal Expos home game with the fans’ individual cheers and shouts clearly audible—as well as each crack of the bat.
The teams played two games because Wednesday’s doubleheader was rained out. The first game Wednesday was supposed to be a makeup of Monday’s doubleheader that was changed to a single night game when the Devil Rays were unable to get to New York in time for Game 1 due to Hurricane Frances.
Mussina (10-9) allowed one run, four hits, struck out six and walked none to win for the first time since June 27. He had lost five straight decisions, the longest slump of his career.
The Devil Rays have lost a season-high 10 straight, their longest skid since they lost 15 in a row from April 25-May 10, 2002.
The first game Thursday was played under mostly sunny skies, and the Yankees treated those who showed up to an offensive outburst against Dewon Brazelton (6-7) by scoring three runs in the first.
Derek Jeter led off with a single and Rodriguez, in his third game in the No. 2 slot in the order, also singled. The runners advanced on a balk, and scored on Sheffield’s single.
Matsui followed with an RBI double, and one out later, Bernie Williams’ run-scoring groundout made it 3-0.
Tampa Bay got a run back in the second on Jorge Cantu’s run-scoring fielder’s choice.
The Yankees added two more runs in the second on Jeter’s sacrifice fly and Sheffield’s RBI single.
In the fourth, Miguel Cairo drew a leadoff walk, Kenny Lofton singled and Jeter reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Brazelton then walked Rodriguez to make it 6-1, ending the right-hander’s day.
Brazelton allowed seven runs—six earned—and nine hits in three-plus innings. He dropped to 0-5 on the road this season—and 0-11 away from Tampa in his career.
Posada added an RBI single in the sixth, and Rodriguez had a run-scoring single in the seventh to make it 9-1.
Rob Bell (6-7) was scheduled to start Game 2 for the Devil Rays against Brad Halsey (1-2). … The Yankees are 13-4 against Tampa Bay this season, including 8-0 at home. … Devil Rays OF Carl Crawford, out since Aug. 31 with a bruised right shoulder, started for the first time since Aug. 28. … Plate umpire Jerry Crawford was hit in the head by a deflected pitch, forcing him to leave after the second inning. He returned with one out in the bottom of the fifth, taking over at second base. … Cairo’s season-high nine-game hitting streak ended, but he reached base four times—two walks and two hit-by-pitches.