Yankees bats go wild in rout of Rays

Yankees bats go wild

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees have had trouble beating the Devil Rays this season, but when they have been able to earn a win over their division foes, they've done it in spectacular style.

That was the case once again on Tuesday, as New York exploded for 10 runs in the first two innings, then capped the game off with a seven-run sixth, handing Tampa Bay a 17-3 loss in the series opener at Tropicana Field.

"It was nice that we got a win. They've had our number all year," said Jason Giambi. "We played a good game. We have to come out and do the same thing [Wednesday] and keep the ball rolling."

The Yankees are now 6-11 against the Devil Rays this season, winning those six games by a combined score of 72-30 -- an average of 12 runs per victory.

The win, combined with Toronto's win over Boston, brought the Yankees within just 2 1/2 games of the Red Sox in the American League East. Cleveland defeated Oakland, leaving New York one game out in the Wild Card race.

"I thought it was a big game," said Jaret Wright, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings for the win. "With the way they've played us, to come in here and get the first one in the series, that's a big win."

Hideki Matsui (4-for-4, four RBIs), Jorge Posada (four RBIs) and Giambi (home run, five RBIs) led the way for the Yankees, who belted 20 hits against six Tampa Bay pitchers.

"I love playing in September. This is the fun time of the year, what you play the whole season for," Giambi said. "You leave it all on the field, because if you don't play in September, there is no October."

The Yankees came out swinging fast and furious, plating five runs in the first inning. The newly revamped lineup started with singles by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, setting up Giambi's three-run homer, his 30th.

Giambi has now reached the 30-homer plateau in six of the last seven seasons, rebounding from his 12-homer performance last year.

"It's exciting, but I'm not done," Giambi said. "Let's see where I finish."

Doug Waechter, who was 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his first three starts this year against the Yankees, then served up a single to Gary Sheffield, the Yankees' fourth consecutive hit to open the game. Matsui reached on catcher's interference, Bernie Williams singled and Posada walked, forcing in Sheffield to make it 4-0.

That was all that Lou Piniella could take, as he lifted his starter after just seven batters and 23 pitches. Dewon Brazelton allowed Matsui to score on a Bubba Crosby groundout, boosting the lead to five before the Rays came to bat.

"I just came out flat," Waechter said. "My arm was dragging and obviously I didn't do too well. Can't take anything away from them, because every one of their guys are good hitters."

Wright allowed two runs in the bottom of the first, but New York's offense went back to work in the second. The Yanks batted around again, driving Brazelton from the game after the first six batters of the inning reached base.

With the score 9-2, Piniella brought in Joe Beimel, who escaped the jam with just one more run, as the Yanks posted a second five-run inning -- the first time they have scored five runs in each of the first two innings since July 24, 2002, against the Indians.

"The most enjoyment I had was doing it in the second inning after the first inning," said manager Joe Torre. "They came back with two runs, and what looked nice at 5-0 was all of a sudden 5-2. I like the fact that we're swinging the bats, because we haven't done that very well against this club."

"Well, the Yankees flexed their muscles today," Piniella said. "Put 10 runs up in the first two innings, and that was that. Only one game; still have two to go."

Beimel held the Yankees scoreless over the next three innings, but Wright matched him, preserving the eight-run lead through five frames. The Yankees exploded again in the sixth against Tim Corcoran and Lance Carter, sending 12 men to the plate.

The seven-run inning, highlighted by two-run singles by Giambi, Matsui and Posada, gave the Yankees a lead large enough for Torre to remove his regulars, as only Robinson Cano and Crosby made it to the end of the game.

"It was important for us to score early on, but there is a tendency to score early and then not score at all," said Matsui through his interpreter. "It was important for us to stay aggressive, not settle on the runs we scored early and to keep adding on runs."

Wright won for the first time in four starts, earning his third consecutive victory. He tossed seven innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and four walks, striking out four.

"You try to stay focused in the game. You have to approach it as a 0-0 game; you can't let up at all, especially the way they've played us," Wright said. "It seems like every day brings more pressure. We're in a pennant race, so when we come to the park, we have to play well."

The last two times the Yankees handed the Rays a lopsided loss, Tampa Bay responded with wins the very next day. That's the thing the Yankees need to avoid on Wednesday, making that game as important as Tuesday's was.

"It's just one game. Unfortunately, it doesn't count for all three," Giambi said. "It doesn't matter what the score was today; if we play bad [Wednesday], it washes everything we did good today away."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.