ST. PETERSBURG — The red-hot New York Yankees came to Tropicana Field on Monday night for the start of a three-game series. Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields said afterward he had one job: “Slow them down.”
The first-place Yankees increased their lead over the third-place Rays with an 11-4 victory in front of 33,442.
“I didn’t have my good stuff,” Shields said.
The right-hander, who has beaten New York once in nine career starts, allowed five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings and dropped to 6-7 on the season.
It didn’t help that he was matched against A.J. Burnett.
But Shields didn’t help his cause by allowing three straight hits to start the second inning, a string that included an RBI double by Jorge Posada and an RBI triple by Robinson Cano, and back-to-back home runs in the fifth by Cano and Nick Swisher.
The Rays offense again failed to support Shields. Their first run came in the bottom of the sixth.
“You look at his overall record, with more offensive support, he probably would have nine, 10 or possibly 11 wins this year,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t think Shields has pitched poorly. I think he has pitched pretty good. He has been very steady. We have just not really supplied him with a lot of run support this year.”
The Rays’ slumping offense didn’t come alive Monday, managing only six hits against the Yankees.
The Rays are batting only .227 in July with 17 home runs and 78 runs in 21 games. For those keeping score, that’s an average of 3.7 runs per game.
Carlos Pena was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts that dropped his average to .217.
Evan Longoria was 0-for-3. He’s batting .229 in his last 57 games.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of good pitching, and we’ve won a lot of close games, and that’s something you have to do sometimes,” Maddon said. “We have not really scored a ton of points, but you see a lot of fight in our team towards the end of our games, and I like that.”
The Rays hit .284 in June with 41 home runs, the most in any month in team history.
A.J. too tough
One of those good pitchers Maddon was alluding to was Yankees starter Burnett, who allowed only two hits and an unearned run in seven innings Monday to win his 10th game of the season.
“Every time we see him he pitches well against us,” Maddon said. “He’s good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this guy bad.”
Burnett is 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA over his last 11 starts, allowing three runs or less in each outing. Opponents are batting .209 against the right-hander.
“He really didn’t give us many opportunities to score,” Longoria said. “He’s tough. He throws to both sides of the plate and throws hard. I thought our at-bats were OK against him, but we didn’t do a good job, really, getting to him.”
Longoria was drilled on his left elbow by David Robertson during the eighth inning.
“I had a pad there. It was fine,” Longoria said. “I wear the pad for a reason, and it hit me there. It was one of those ones that got me in the right spot. That’s the way the game goes. I’ll be back (Tuesday).”
The Yankees have won 10 of their 11 games to open the second half of the season. They have also won 23 of their last 29. Their 17-6 record in July is the best in the American League.
Monday’s win moved the Yankees to a season-high 23 games over .500.
Yankee right fielder Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate Monday for the second time this season and ninth time in his career.
Swisher homered off Shields (right-handed) and Brian Shouse (left-handed).
Swisher has 16 home runs, of which 13 have come on the road. Four of those have come in four games at the Trop.
Pat the Bat
Pat Burrell hit his seventh home run of the year in the ninth inning. The Rays DH has four home runs, 10 extra-base hits and 13 RBI since July 5. Those 10 extra base hits are two more than he had during the first 44 games of the season.
Carl Crawford stole his major league-leading 48th base of the season. It the 350th steal of his career ... Johnny Damon’s ninth inning home runs was the 200th of his career ... Yankee reliever David Robertson recorded the first save of his career ... The crowd of 33,442 was the largest for a Monday game at the Trop since the home opener, which drew a sellout of 36,973 ... Former Ray Toby Hall was in attendance ... Only scattered tickets remain for Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals that will be followed by a postgame concert by Daughtry.