NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte allowed just two hits in 7 1/3 shutout innings in his fifth start since returning from retirement, and Russell Martin had three hits, including a grand slam in the fourth inning that blew open a close game, as the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-0, in front of 40,537 at Yankee Stadium Tuesday.
With the win in the opener of the three-game series, the Yankees (30-24) moved within a half-game of the AL East-leading Rays. The Baltimore Orioles were 30-24 heading into Tuesday's action.
The two runs the Yankees scored in the first proved to be more than enough for Pettitte, who allowed only two runners as far as second base. Pettitte struck out 10 - his most in exactly two years but the third time in four starts he's whiffed as many as eight - and walked just two.
But with Pettitte's pitch count at 103 and the left-hander just 10 days shy of his 40th birthday, he was lifted to a standing ovation after he struck out Luke Scott to open the eighth. Pettitte was pulled five outs shy of his fifth career shutout and before he could match his low-hit complete game (two-hitter against Oakland on May 29, 2000).
The Yankees provided plenty of insurance in the fourth, when, with one out, Raul Ibanez walked, Nick Swisher singled and Eric Chavez walked before Martin crushed an 0-2 pitch into the right field bleachers to extend the Yankees' lead to 6-0.
It was the fourth career grand slam for Martin and the third grand slam surrendered by Tampa Bay starter James Shields, who was earlier victimized by Swisher (then playing for the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 8, 2006) and Jayson Nix (playing for the Chicago White Sox on May 30, 2010).
Robinson Cano led off the fifth with a double for the Yankees and scored on Swisher's one-out double to make it 7-0.
The Yankees also capitalized on a bases-loaded opportunity by scoring a pair of unearned runs in the first. Shields appeared to work his way out of the jam by inducing what should have been an inning-ending grounder by Ibanez, but shortstop Elliot Johnson's throw skipped past first baseman Carlos Pena, which allowed Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez to score.
For Shields, Tuesday marked the third time he struggled against the Yankees in as many starts this season. He entered Tuesday with a 7.36 ERA in two starts against the Yankees (nine earned runs in 11 innings). He had a 3.34 ERA in his other nine starts (23 earned runs in 62 innings).
Pettitte didn't allow a hit until B.J. Upton's scorching grounder eluded Derek Jeter leading off the fourth. It was the second time in five starts Pettitte opened a game with at least three hitless frames. Pettitte, who returned to the Yankees in May after sitting out the 2011 season, entered the game with a 3.49 ERA and pitched into the seventh inning in all four of his starts.
NOTES: Yankees pitcher David Robertson, on the disabled list since May 15 with a strained left oblique, threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Robertson will throw again Thursday and could be penciled in for a rehab assignment shortly thereafter if he has no complications. ... Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner had five at-bats in an extended spring training game. He'll take Wednesday off and will play in another game Thursday. Gardner has been out since April 18 with a right elbow strain. ... The Rays activated outfielder Desmond Jennings from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Rich Thompson to Triple-A Durham. Jennings, who started in left field and batted leadoff Tuesday night, missed 21 games with a left knee sprain. Thompson was 1-for-16 with two stolen bases for the Rays in his first major league action since 2004. ... Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who suffered a partially torn left hamstring May 1, traveled with the club to New York and continues to ramp up his baseball activities. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Longoria is getting close to a rehab assignment. ... At the start of play Tuesday, the five AL East teams were all over .500 with just three games separating the first-place Rays and the last-place Blue Jays and Red Sox. That's the latest in a season any American League division has had all teams over .500 and separated by three or fewer games since realignment in 1994.