NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees are closing in on another
playoff berth -- and they're not getting much of a late-season test
from Tampa Bay.
Robinson Cano drove in five runs, Alex Rodriguez hit a long
homer and New York beat the overmatched Devil Rays 8-4 Wednesday
night for its fifth straight victory, equaling a season high."We don't have a soft spot. We really don't," Yankees manager
Joe Torre said. "We have a lot of good energy right now and I'm
really pleased with the way we're playing."Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 22 games, the longest
run by a Yankees player since current batting coach Don Mattingly
had a 24-game string in 1986."You can't really explain it," Jeter said. "Sometimes you
feel good for a long time and try to ride the wave."Cano hit a two-run homer and Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with two
RBI as New York trimmed the magic number for clinching its ninth
consecutive AL East title to seven.Despite a shaky start by Cory Lidle, the Yankees (88-56) won for
the eighth time in 10 tries to move 32 games over .500 for the
first time this year. Drawing away on the strength of a relentless
lineup, they opened a season-high 11½-game lead over second-place
Boston and could wrap up the division championship at home this
weekend during a four-game series with the Red Sox.Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford homered in the first inning for
Tampa Bay, which fell to 2-24 on the road since July 1. The Devil
Rays also dropped to 3-18-3 all-time in series at Yankee Stadium."They're tough for everybody," manager Joe Maddon said. "The
lineup is very thick and there are no breaks. They're playing as
well as they have offensively in a while."Staked to a 6-2 lead, Lidle lasted only four-plus innings and
failed to qualify for a win. He gave up four runs and nine hits,
which couldn't have helped his dwindling chances to earn a playoff
start.Trying to beat out Jaret Wright for the No. 4 spot in New York's
postseason rotation, the right-hander has struggled in consecutive
outings and three of his past four. He was hit in the leg by a line
drive during this one, but said that didn't affect him."Right now I'm not locating as well as I'm capable," Lidle
said. "I know I can pitch well in the postseason. I don't think
it's a matter of proving myself. I think they know what I can do.
It's just a matter of doing it. I'm not worried."Brian Bruney (1-1) yielded one hit in two shutout innings for
his first win with the Yankees."You can't say enough about what [general manager Brian
Cashman] has done. I don't know where he found this guy,"
Rodriguez said. "He's been unbelievable. He throws 94-98 [mph] and
he just doesn't care. He's been a great shot in the arm for us."Mike Myers, Scott Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth finished up with
scoreless relief.Cano hit a sacrifice fly in the first, his 10th homer in the
third and a two-run double in the seventh that made it 8-4 and
matched his career high for RBI.Making a push for AL MVP, Jeter finished 1-for-5 with his 30th
stolen base and scored twice.Baldelli hit his fourth career leadoff homer, all this season.
Crawford added a solo shot, his 17th home run of the year.Two walks by rookie starter Jason Hammel (0-3) and Jeter's
single loaded the bases with none out in the bottom half. Rodriguez
drove in a run with an infield single, Jason Giambi had an RBI
groundout, and Cano's sacrifice fly put New York ahead 3-2."I kept the ball inside the infield, for the most part,"
Hammel said. "The walks killed me. You've got to throw strikes in
this league."In the third, Rodriguez homered deep into the black batter's eye
beyond the center-field fence. Cano's two-run shot made it 6-2.Josh Paul hit an RBI single in the fourth, and Greg Norton
chased Lidle with a run-scoring single in the fifth that cut it to
6-4.Hammel allowed six runs and six hits over 4 2/3 innings in his
sixth big league start.
Rodriguez made a wild throw from third for his 23rd error
this season. His 462nd home run tied Jose Canseco for 29th on the
career list. ... Crawford reached 50 stolen bases for the third
time. ... Cano has 37 RBI in 35 games since coming off the
disabled list on Aug. 8.