Yankees 5, Devil Rays 1

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Johnny Damon felt good enough to play, and Joe Torre was looking for the right situation to get the ailing Yankees star into the game.

Out of the starting lineup for the third straight day because of a pulled muscle in his right side, Damon came off the bench to score as a pinch runner for Jason Giambi and later hit a two-run triple off Scott Kazmir to help New York beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5-1 on Saturday night.

“It worked out perfectly,” Damon said. “The timing, running for Jason, caught me off guard. But (Torre) knew exactly what he was doing. I’m just happy everything worked out.”

Chien-Ming Wang (9-4) pitched 8 1-3 solid innings, allowing six hits, striking out two and walking two to help the Yankees win for the fourth straight time since an embarrassing 19-1 loss at Cleveland.

Jonny Gomes’ sacrifice fly off Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth snapped Tampa Bay’s scoreless innings streak at 19. Four Yankees pitchers teamed for a 1-0 shutout Friday night, and the Devil Rays hadn’t scored since the seventh inning of a 12-5 loss to Boston on Thursday.

Farnsworth replaced Wang with runners at first and third after one-out singles by Aubrey Huff and Jorge Cantu.

Damon entered the game as a pinch runner after center fielder Rocco Baldelli misplayed Giambi’s fly ball for a two-base error. He sprinted home, breaking a scoreless tie, when Jorge Posada singled off Kazmir (10-6) to snap an 0-for-13 streak.

Damon remained in the game as the designated hitter and tripled off the Devil Rays All-Star—making it 3-0—after Melky Cabrera doubled and Derek Jeter drew an intentional walk with one out in the seventh.

“I knew he could play, but I just didn’t want to throw him to the wolves out there with the first guy he’s going to face being a tough left-hander,” said Torre, who tied former Yankees manager Casey Stengel for 10th on baseball’s career list with 1,926 victories.

Kazmir, coming off a two-hit, complete-game shutout of Boston, allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. The 22-year-old left-hander struck out seven and walked four, two intentionally.

“Not too many people hit Kazmir well,” Damon said. “He threw me four straight curveballs after having me down 0-2. I was able to stay on one. It worked out perfect.”

Kazmir pitched the seventh despite some discomfort in the middle finger on his left hand.

“It was a callus that was just getting a little soft,” Kazmir said. “It didn’t affect me at all. It’s fine.”

The Yankees added two runs in the eighth when Cabrera and Jeter had RBI singles off reliever Edwin Jackson.

Kazmir struck out 10 and pitched the first complete game of his career against Boston last Monday. He limited the Red Sox to a third-inning single by Alex Gonzalez and ninth-inning double by Manny Ramirez, and was just as tough on the Yankees early.

He struck out Jeter and Giambi after giving up an infield hit to Kevin Thompson and a ground single to Cabrera with one out in the third. Kazmir gave up another infield hit to Thompson in the fifth, but worked out of a jam after Thompson stole second by getting Cabrera and Jeter to ground out.

But Wang was sharp, too, holding Tampa Bay to singles by Baldelli, Huff and Julio Lugo through five innings. The Devil Rays were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position during Friday’s loss and failed to come up with the big hit again after Baldelli and Huff reached base in the fourth with one out.

It was the same story in the sixth after Carl Crawford tripled with one out. The speedy Tampa Bay star was easily thrown out at the plate when Baldelli hit a high-hopper to Jeter at shortstop.

“It’s amazing after how well we swung the bats against a good Boston staff,” manager Joe Maddon said of the Devil Rays’ hitting woes. Tampa Bay won three of four from the Red Sox before facing the Yankees.

“I thought we would at least be able to produce a couple of runs, but you’ve got to tip your hat to them. They prepared well for this series. They’re playing very well. Their pitching has been fantastic.”

Notes

Damon was 1-for-12 against Kazmir before his triple. … Jeter has gone 177 at-bats without a home run, the second-longest homerless streak within the same season in his career. He went 313 at-bats without a homer in 1997. … Thompson started in right field and went 2-for-3 after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day. To make room on the roster, RHP T.J. Beam was optioned to Columbus.

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