- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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WHAT IT MEANS: The New York Yankees are heating up, and knocking on the door of first place in the American League East.
Despite the fact that they have struggled at times over the first two months of this season, including being dreadful offensively with runners in scoring position, the Yanks find themselves ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and just a half-game behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles following their 4-1 win over the Rays on Wednesday night.
The Yankees (31-24) have now won 10 of their past 13 games, and are a season-high seven games over .500. The Rays (31-25) have lost seven of their past 10 games.
New York Yankees
IVAN THE GREAT: Ivan Nova entered this game with a good record (6-2) and a dismal ERA (5.60), but he was brilliant on Wednesday night.
How brilliant? After giving up a line-drive single to lead off the game (which Robinson Cano almost snared at second base), Nova did his best Johan Santana impression, mowing down the Rays without giving up another hit until the eighth inning, when Sean Rodriguez laced a one-out double to right field.
Joe Girardi gave Nova, at 99 pitches, a chance to finish it off in the ninth, but he gave up back-to-back triples to start the inning, losing his shutout in the process. Nova then left to a standing ovation, and Rafael Soriano finished the victory off.
Nova allowed one run on four hits in eight-plus innings, with five strikeouts and one walk. He also hit a bitter.
LONG BALLS: The Yankees entered the game leading the majors in home runs (81), and in percentage of runs scored via the home run (51.6 percent). And they got the job done that way on Wednesday.
Mark Teixeira smacked an Alex Cobb curveball into the second deck in right field in the second inning, and Cano lined a Cobb fastball just over the wall in right in the fourth.
Cobb deserved better in his first-ever start at Yankee Stadium. Those were the only two hits he gave up in the first seven innings of the game. Cobb appeared to tire in the eighth, giving up three straight hits to lead off the frame before being lifted -- a single to Raul Ibanez, followed by doubles to Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez.
The 24-year-old Cobb, filling in for the injured Jeff Niemann, was charged with four runs on five hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.
GODZILLA REPORT: After going 0-for-4 in his return to the Stadium on Tuesday, former Yankee Hideki Matsui was 0-for-4 again -- although he did hit a couple of balls hard against Nova, flying out deep to center in the fourth, and to left in the seventh. He also hit a ball deep to right off Soriano in the ninth, but it was caught to end the game.
STAY TUNED: Andrew Marchand and I are heading to the clubhouse to get all the postgame reaction.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Yanks and Rays will finish up this three-game series on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. It's a great pitching matchup: CC Sabathia (7-2, 3.68 ERA) versus David Price (7-3, 2.44 ERA).
45mRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
5hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
6hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com