Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yanks Rock Rays, Sweep Twin Bill

The first two and a half innings of the night portion of the doubleheader seemed to indicate that the Yankees and Rays were headed for another pitcher's duel. A.J. Burnett stumbled out of the gate, allowing back to back doubles to Gabe Gross and Evan Longoria to put the Rays up 1-0. However, he then rebounded to strike out four over the next 2.2 IP, working around two walks and a single to keep the Rays lead at one heading into the bottom of the third.

Andy Sonnanstine had faced the minimum amount of batters through the first two frames but not only did the wheels come off in the third, but the car swerved off the road, down an embankment and burst into flames. The Yanks sent 13 men to the plate in the inning, eight of whom came around to score on eight hits and two walks. The game was blown wide open, but there was a lingering sense of a disappointment.

Derek Jeter, the man receiving the loudest cheers of encouragement, made two of the three outs in the inning. He did reach base on a fielder's choice, driving in a run and came around to score. However, the 17 hits tallied by the Yankees tonight will be best remembered not for Mark Teixiera's two home runs or Jose Molina picking up 3 singles, but for the fact that Jeter, still 3 away from Lou Gehirg on the All-Time Yankee hit list after going 0-4 in the first game, didn't pick up any of them. It was reminiscent of the game back on July 31st, 2007 when A-Rod was sitting at 499 HRs and the Yankees bashed 8 as a team en route to a 16-3 win, but Alex went 0-5.

Jeter wasn't as close to his milestone and this game wasn't quite that lopsided, but Burnett went six innings and didn't allow another run and the Yanks added three more as they dominated the fading Rays. A.J. was backed up by Edwar Ramirez, Jonathan Albaledejo and Mike Dunn, who each threw scoreless innings of relief. Dunn's was the least impressive as his control problems continued, throwing only 11 of his 24 pitches for strikes and walking two.

The sweep of the doubleheader in conjunction with a White Sox win over the Red Sox shrank the Yankees magic number from 19 to 16, extended their lead in the division to a season-high 9 games and their record to 39 games over .500 for the first time since September 30th, 2004. There have been ample opportunities for the Yankees to let up since the All-Star break, but they haven't taken any of them, ripping off a 38-13 record (.745) since that point.

Going 11-12 over their final 23 games would give the Yanks their first 100 win season since '04, but there has been nothing to indicate that this team will coast to the finish line in such a manner. This team just gets more impressive as the season wears on.

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