Andy Pettitte has provided a spark to the Yankees since his return from retirement. (Image: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

Yankees, Pettitte bury Rays 7-0

The New York Yankees, underachievers for a better part of this season, are now just a 1/2 game out of first place after a brilliant pitching performance from Andy Pettitte last night at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte pitched 7.1 innings of shutout ball with a whopping 10 strikeouts and was backed by early run production with RISP, highlighted by a Russell Martin grand slam in the fourth inning. Pettitte allowed only two hits and two walks on the night. His performance marked the fourth straight start in which he lasted at least seven innings and has reached the seventh in all five starts since his return.

The Yankees got things going in the bottom of the first inning off Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields. Curtis Granderson singled with one-out and moved to second on a wild pitch from Shields. Alex Rodriguez walked and then Robinson Cano reached on an infield single loading the bases. Raul Ibanez grounded to shortstop Elliot Johnson, who had him played perfectly behind second base, but Johnson made an errant throw to first allowing A-Rod and Cano to score. It was the first of three errors on the night for the Rays. The usually fundamentally sound team has now made 25 errors in their last 22 games, something which must be driving Rays manager Joe Maddon crazy.

With Pettitte shutting down the offense, it removed some of the burden felt by Yankees’ batters with RISP. They weren’t exactly terrific last night under those circumstances, 3-for-12, but they did receive one big hit with the bases jammed and it couldn’t have come from a player needing it more. Martin, who entered the game hitting .194 with four homers and 12 RBI, delivered when it counted last night.

Shields was erratic for most of the night, walking a total of four batters, and two of those came back to haunt him in the Yankees half of the fourth. Ibanez received a one-out free pass, Nick Swisher singled and then Shields walked Eric Chavez to load the bases. Martin drilled an 0-2 fastball into the right center field bleachers clearing the bases.

The Yankees tacked on a run in the fifth on a Swisher double. Freddy Garcia recorded the final five outs of the night and sealed the Yankees’ fourth shutout of the season.

The Yankees are 9-3 in their last 12 games dating back to when they were dropped to the .500 mark on May 21st. While they are a half-game back, the Yanks are in a dead heat with the Rays and Baltimore Orioles with 24 losses each.

Tags: A-Rod Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Baltimore Orioles Curtis Granderson Eric Chavez Freddy Garcia James Shields New York Yankees Nick Swisher Raul Ibanez Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankee Stadium Yankees

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