The Yankees jumped all over James Shields and the Rays early and often tonight, aided in part by more shoddy defensive play by the Rays. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out against Shields in the very first inning, only to see Mark Teixeira give the Rays’ righty a lifeboat with the most predictable strikeout ever for the second out. Raul Ibanez then hit into a routine grounder to shortstop but, as Yankeedom threatened to explode early tonight at the prospect of even more RISPfail, Elliot Johnson botched the throw to first base, and the Yankees managed to plate two runs on the error. The next time the Yankees loaded the bases would not be nearly as maddening, as Russell Martin drilled an 0-2 fastball into the right-centerfield stands for a grand slam home run to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead. Nick Swisher would add a double with runners on first and third in the fifth to bring in the Yankees’ seventh and final run of the night.
On the other side of the ball, this night was all about Andrew Eugene Pettitte. Even in the games Pettitte has pitched well this year he has often insisted that he still has work to do as he gets further into his big league comeback, but it’s hard to see how he could have pitched much better than he did tonight. Pettitte was dominant from the beginning, retiring nine of the first ten batters he faced, six of those outs coming via strikes, and didn’t allow a hit until B.J. Upton led off the fourth inning with a single before being erased on a double play. Pettitte would finish the game having allowed no runs, two hits, and two walks while striking out an even ten Rays before Joe Girardi went to the pen. Pettitte had thrown just 103 pitches to that point and struck out Luke Scott to open the eighth, but with a 7-0 lead in hand and the bottom of the Rays’ lineup coming up, Girardi decided to call on Freddy Garcia to soak up the final five outs of the game. Garcia did just that to finish off the game and give the Yankees another victory to open a series. That’s the third time in their last four series they’ve done that, and the Bombers have now won nine of their last twelve games since that embarrassing debacle to open their last series with Kansas City.