NEW YORK (AP) -- If the New York Yankees keep pitching like this,
they won't have to settle for AL championship rings next season.
Roger Clemens' earned run was the first one given up by Yankees starters in 33 1/3 innings.
Roger Clemens completed a near flawless turn through the
rotation, allowing one earned run in 7 1-3 innings as the Yankees
swept the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with a 7-2 win Sunday. "Pitching is our strong suit," manager Joe Torre said. "It's
great to be able to go out there and control games. We've been able
to do that with our pitching." Yankees starters had not allowed a run since Opening Day until
the Devil Rays scored an unearned run in the sixth. That snapped
New York's 23-inning scoreless streak and a 33 1-3-inning stretch
by the starters. The Devil Rays ended their own 26-inning scoreless
run. "If I was on the opposition, I wouldn't want to face our
pitchers," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who had three hits
and three RBI. Jason Giambi got his first RBI with New York, which has won five
straight since losing 10-3 on opening day in Baltimore.
The Yankees received their rings for their 38th AL pennant
before the game. While that is a cause for celebration some places,
winning it all is the only acceptable result for George
Stellar pitching should give the Yankees a good chance at
regaining the title they won three straight years before blowing a
2-1 ninth-inning lead in Game 7 of the World Series to Arizona last
year. Giambi should also help once he gets comfortable. Giambi,
3-for-21 this season, got a standing ovation after his run-scoring
single in the eighth. After being booed much of his first weekend
in New York, Giambi laughed as he left for pinch-runner Ron Coomer. "I finally got that big hit today, got that out of the way,"
Giambi said. "That 3,000-pound gorilla finally jumped out of the
stadium." Giambi's slow start hasn't mattered. Clemens (1-1) followed up
scoreless stints by David Wells, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and
Orlando Hernandez with a strong start of his own. Last year, the Yankees top four of Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte,
Hernandez didn't win consecutive starts until Sept. 5-9. "This is obviously the best starting rotation I've been
involved in," Clemens said. "When you add in the bullpen, it's
the best staff. I didn't think it could get much better than last
year, but we got deeper." Clemens, the only Yankees starter to allow a run, retired the
first 13 batters until Ben Grieve's double with one out in the
fifth. Bernie Williams made a diving attempt on the liner to
right-center, but the ball one-hopped off his glove and rolled
away. "He had no-hit stuff. He was rearing back and letting it go,"
Torre said. "He looked like he was really locked in today. After
watching from the sidelines, he was ready for this today." Clemens showed no ill effects from the swollen hand he sustained
trying to barehand a grounder on opening day. He even made a nice
stab -- this time with his glove -- off Brent Abernathy's hard
grounder to save a run in the fifth. The Devil Rays, who sent Clemens to two of his three losses last
year, finally broke through in the sixth with some help from two
misplays in the field. John Flaherty reached on second baseman
Alfonso Soriano's throwing error. With one out, Jason Tyner hit into a forceout and then stole
second. He scored on Randy Winn's line single to right that John
Vander Wal trapped after hesitating when the ball came off the bat. Clemens left to a standing ovation after allowing consecutive
doubles with one out in the eighth to Abernathy and Flaherty.
Clemens allowed four hits and struck out nine to earn his 281st
career win. "He was getting a lot of early strikes," Abernathy said. "We
weren't getting into good hitters counts where we could sit on the
fastball." The Yankees started fast against Tanyon Sturtze (0-1), who beat
New York three times last season. Soriano and Jeter doubled to open
the game and Jorge Posada added a two-run single in the inning.
Jeter had RBI singles in the fourth and the sixth inning and Nick
Johnson also had a run-scoring single in the sixth. The Devil Rays, who came into Yankee Stadium in first place,
left with three losses and two runs. Now, they head to Baltimore
where they start a three-game series with the Orioles on Tuesday. "Tuesday night will give us a better indication of where we
are," manager Hal McRae said. "We were sort of overmatched here.
Johnson played first base for the third time this season.
Giambi was the DH. ... Torre won his 1,481st career game, moving
past Earl Weaver into 18th place. ... The Devil Rays have lost 12
of 13 at Yankee Stadium. Their only win in the stretch came Sept.
25, when the Yankees clinched the AL East.