Yankees blow by Rays in finale

Yankees blow by Rays in finale

NEW YORK -- That wasn't a miscue lit up on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium. The bulbs were in fine working condition and the electronic switchboard checked out normal. Those two dotted numbers squished together under the fourth-inning column wasn't a malfunction.

Fourteen Yankees came up to bat in the 10-run inning to kick-start a 21-4 rout of the Devil Rays on Sunday. The 29-minute hitting barrage marked the first time the Yankees have plated double-digit runs in an inning since Sept. 4, 2006, against the Kansas City Royals.

"You might go a few years before you see another game like this," Derek Jeter said. "It was just one of those things I don't think you can really explain."

Crooked numbers riddled the box score, but the gold, silver and bronze awards go to the following in order:

• Alex Rodriguez inched closer to the 500-homer club with a two-run shot in the seventh for No. 498.

• Hideki Matsui set a regular-season career high with five hits and homered for the third time in as many games.

• Rookie Shelley Duncan, called up less than 72 hours ago, hit a couple of long balls. His solo shot in the sixth marked his third home run in a span of five at-bats.

The crowd beckoned Duncan for two curtain calls during the game, both coming after his four-baggers. That upped his standing ovations count to three in four games. He even overshadowed Rodriguez, who didn't receive a curtain call after his milestone-chasing homer.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he leaned over to Rodriguez after one of Duncan's home runs and said, "Sorry, you're not the guy anymore."

Laughs were shared. A-Rod welcomes the 6-foot-5 spirit that Duncan brings.

"It's pretty exciting. He has a lot of energy," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes we need that energy, so that's good. I'm happy he's here."

The Yankees scored a combined 38 runs in the final two games against the Devil Rays, winning their fifth straight series. Torre couldn't recall seeing a two-game outburst like this ... ever.

"Even in batting practice you don't get hits every time you swing the bat," he said. "This was certainly pretty incredible -- to be able to continue to get hit after hit after hit after hit."

But lost in the offense was Yankees starter Andy Pettitte -- literally. Faced with nearly a half-hour layover because of the offensive explosion, Pettitte snuck back into the clubhouse, where team personnel set up a net for him to throw balls into and stay loose.

For the most part, it seemed to work, as Pettitte didn't allow a run after the layover and ended up surrendering a total of three runs over six innings for his sixth win of the season. He also struck out a season-high eight batters and scattered three walks.

Despite staying sharp enough to shut down the Rays' lineup after the fourth, Pettitte made it clear that long periods between innings can rattle pitchers.

"You like to get some run support, but I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "It's hard to try to keep your focus and stay locked in."

It didn't matter if Pettitte could focus after the delay or not. The Yankees piled on seven more runs for him after he took a seat in the dugout.

While history shows that the team's batting onslaught shouldn't repeat itself anytime soon -- the last time the Yankees scored this many runs in back-to-back games was 40 back in 1936 -- the team has spoken a lot this season about forgetting the odds, forgetting the math and forgetting what the past tells them.

Not long ago, fans and media alike were voicing the slim chances the Yankees had of catching the Red Sox in the American League East. Too many games to catch up, stated the general consensus.

But the Yankees have whittled away at their deficit in a second-half surge in which they've won 9 of 12 games. Now, 7 1/2 games separate them from the Red Sox, and outfielder Johnny Damon knows anything's possible with the pride and power of pinstripes.

"With the payroll we have out there, with the players we have, we should be able to beat up on anybody," he said. "We obviously aren't where we want to be right now, but with the way we're playing, we're feeling a lot better about ourselves."

Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.