Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yanks take down Jays, get help from Rays

The Yankees did Tuesday what they have been generally unable to do in recent years. Beat Roy Halladay. Halladay went the full nine innings for Toronto but allowed three solo home runs in the final two innings, including just the second pair of back-to-back home runs of his career to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira in the eighth.

Andy Pettitte threw 6.2 innings of one-run ball and Mariano Rivera came in with two outs and two on in the eighth, allowing a two-run double to Vernon Wells that cut the Yankee lead to 4-3. Hideki Matsui gave Rivera all the insurance he would need with a bomb over the center field wall in the ninth. It was just the fourth time in their last 16 games facing Halladay that the Yankees won.

Sergio Mitre struggled again the next night, lasting just 4.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits. But Toronto counterpart Mark Rzepczynski didn't fare much better, allowing four earned in six innings. New York was down 3-2 after an Adam Lind solo homer in the fifth, but exploded for four runs in the seventh inning.

Nick Swisher led off the inning with his 18th home run of the season and Robinson Cano doubled to knock out Rzepczynski. Matsui, Damon and Teixeira all added RBI singles in the inning. Alfredo Aceves gave one back in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Marco Scutaro, but Phil Hughes and David Robertson shut the Jays down in the eighth and ninth to seal the Yankees' 8-4 win.

While the Yankees won two, the Red Sox lost two to division rival Tampa Bay. Evan Longoria hit a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th off Takashi Saito in game one, while David Price outdueled Brad Penny the next night as Tampa picked up a 6-4 victory to pull within three games of Boston for the Wild Card and 5.5 of the Yankees in the AL East.

Now it's showtime for the Yankees, who will host the Red Sox for four at the Stadium. The Yanks are 31-16 since the last time they played Boston, a three-game sweep at Fenway. The Yankees went into that series hot as well, having won 19 of their previous 25 games. With an 0-8 record against the Sox this season and riding another extended hot streak, this is by far the Yankees most important series of the season to date.

They will throw their top four starting pitchers and if they can take three of four from Boston, they can increase their lead to 4.5 in the division. And if they can completely reverse this season's results and pull off a sweep of their own, they will send the Red Sox back to Fenway down 6.5 games in the division. The absence of Jason Bay for games one and two will surely help the Yankees cause as they look to stay hot against their biggest rival.

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