Yanks bash their way to twin-bill sweep

Yanks bash their way to sweep

NEW YORK -- In their pregame meetings, the Yankees have talked about needing to force the issue more. Nothing accomplishes that like busting out the bats.

Alex Rodriguez hit career homer No. 497 and the Yankees recorded a season-high 20 hits in a nightcap barrage, blasting the Devil Rays, 17-5, to complete a day-night doubleheader sweep at Yankee Stadium.

After clubbing the Rays in the afternoon game of the twin bill, posting a 7-3 victory behind home runs from Hideki Matsui and rookie Shelley Duncan, the Yankees kept their offense cranking in the nightcap.

"We didn't have many dry innings, and to me, that's probably the manager's best friend," said Joe Torre, "when you score runs and you keep going after it every at-bat. We had some tired puppies out there, but they never gave away an at-bat."

Rodriguez closed to within three home runs of becoming the youngest player to join the 500-homer club when he connected off former Yankee Jay Witasick for a two-run shot, part of New York's five-run sixth inning, dropping a blast onto the netting over Monument Park in left field.

"It's incredible," said Andy Phillips, who had four hits in the doubleheader. "It's hard to even describe what he's doing. You know, it's hard to put in words, justifiable words. It's just an amazing thing that he's doing, and he never ceases to amaze you every time he steps up there."

Both Rodriguez and Johnny Damon drove in four runs in the second game, and Damon -- playing left field after spending the first game on the bench -- turned in two tremendous defensive plays to rob Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura, including a second-inning diving snag in the left-center-field gap on what would have been at least a two-run extra-base hit.

Damon also ran down the game's first pitch with a running grab in the left-field corner, smacking into the padding as he completed the catch.

The Yankees' total offensive output, which included Bobby Abreu and Matsui also collecting three RBIs and Matsui's eighth homer in his last 16 games, proved necessary. Rookie left-hander Kei Igawa had been shaky before turning in five innings of two-run ball in the first game, and the Yankees summoned rookie right-hander Matt DeSalvo from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start under the lights.

"I don't think there's any question that we felt we needed to score runs," Torre said. "You've got a kid coming up from the Minor Leagues [in DeSalvo], [and] you've got Igawa, who used a lot of pitches early in his games. The pitching worked out great."

DeSalvo's success was scattered in his first two Major League callups, but the Yankees selected him for the start after considering his statistics at Scranton, where he'd gone 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA in seven starts since being sent down immediately after an ill-fated start on June 3 at Chicago.

One of seven rookie pitchers to make starts this season for the Yankees, DeSalvo had crisp bite on some pitches early, but his luck ran out in the fifth inning, with the big blow a two-run single to B.J. Upton. DeSalvo was lifted with two outs in the inning, but Brian Bruney came on in relief and recorded the final out, preserving DeSalvo's line at four runs and seven hits.

"Team-wise, I'm happy with getting into the fifth inning and getting 14 outs," said DeSalvo, who was optioned back to Triple-A after the game. "But on a personal level, I'd be a lot happier person if I got a few more outs and went into the sixth or seventh inning, for my own sake. The team won, so it's one of those days where you just have to learn from it."

Luis Vizcaino picked up the victory on both ends of the doubleheader, becoming the first Yankee to do so since Lindy McDaniel on May 24, 1970, at Cleveland. Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning in the afternoon game and turned in 1 1/3 blank innings in the nightcap to earn his eighth win of the season, leading all Major League relievers.

"He's one of those magic guys this year," Torre said.

The Yankees gave DeSalvo plenty to work with early facing left-hander J.P. Howell, who came off a start at Boston in which he couldn't make it out of the first inning.

The Yankees had similar designs on Howell, as Abreu ripped a two-run double up the gap in left-center and Rodriguez doubled off the right-field wall. Howell allowed the first five Yankees to reach base before finally recording an out.

Backup catcher Wil Nieves contributed a two-run double to the attack against Howell and had two hits in what could be his final game as a Yankee. The club completed a trade with the Angels for catcher Jose Molina during the late innings, and plan to designate Nieves for assignment as soon as Molina can get to New York from Minnesota, where his former club was playing.

The doubleheader sweep has the Yankees flying high, but maybe only for a few hours. They shuffled out of Yankee Stadium quickly, with the fourth and final game of the series set for Sunday afternoon.

"We'll come in tomorrow trying to win a game," Phillips said. "We've taken the approach that we are trying to win one each day, and if we can do that, we can add some series up and make a push at this thing."

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