The much scrutinized Yankee pitching staff came up big in this four game series with the Devil Rays. The four starting pitchers and the relievers combined to give up only 11 runs in the four game set. Lead by the inconsistent Jose Contreras on Thursday and finished by the triumphant return of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Contreras pitched well in Thursday's 7-1 win (see our post on that game here). On Friday it was newly named All-Star, Javier Vasquez, notching his 10th win of the year. Vasquez pitched five and two-thirds innings, struck out nine and held the Devil rays to three runs. Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada each had two hits to provide the offense for the Yanks.
On Saturday, Jon Lieber went seven innings struck out five and walked none, while holding the Devil Rays to two runs. Alex Rodriguez launched a monster home run into the upper deck in left field to tie the game at two in the fourth inning, while Derek Jeter doubled in three runs in the fifth to give Lieber and the Yanks all the runs they would need. In a familiar pattern, Tom Gordon came on in the 8th inning and Mariano Rivera picked up his league leading 32nd save in he 9th inning.
Although Saturday was officially Old-Timers day at the stadium, Orlando Hernandez made is first start in Yankee Stadium in over two years. He pitched five strong innings and dazzled he Devil Rays with a variety of pitches ranging from 68 MPH to 90 MPH. He even threw a variation of the infamous eephus pitch. To best describe this pitch, imagine a slow pitch softball pitch, with lots of arc and no speed. The Yankee bullpen was able to get four innings out of Felix Heredia and rookie Sam Marsonek to end the game. Posada, Gary Sheffield, Tony Clark and Hideki Matsui all hit home runs, Clark hit two.
The Yankees go into the All-Star break with four wins in a row and a seven game lead over division rival Boston. The Yankees begin the second half of the season with 12 out of the first 14 games on the road. A four game series with Detroit starts the second half off on Thursday at 7:05pm.