ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There's no letup in the New York Yankees.
Starting a nine-game, 10-day road trip that could set the tone for the remainder of the season, the AL East leaders continued their strong second-half start with an 11-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
"We left home after a good homestand and we're in a good spot right now," right-hander A.J. Burnett said after the Yankees homered four times to improve to 10-1 since the All-Star break.
"But you can tell from these guys that we're not content. We want to keep going and keep winning and see how far we can go."
Burnett allowed two hits in seven innings and switch-hitter Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate for the Yankees, who maintained a 2½-game lead in the division over second-place Boston.
New York also extended its lead to 7½ over the third-place Rays.
"We worry about winning series. We don't worry about sending messages," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For us, we wanted to get this road trip, it's a long road trip, off on the right start and we did."
Swisher homered from the left and right sides of the plate for the ninth time in his career, second this year. Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon also went deep, while Derek Jeter had three hits and Alex Rodriguez contributed a two-run double on his 34th birthday.
Cano had an RBI triple in the second inning, then led off the sixth with his 15th homer off Rays starter James Shields (6-7). Swisher hit his 15th off the right-hander two pitches later and added No. 16 off lefty Brian Shouse with a solo shot in the ninth.
Damon finished New York's 15-hit night with his 200th career homer, a three-run blast that made it 11-3.
"We wanted to make sure we took the first one," Swisher said. "After the break, I think the one thing we stressed was come out of the gate good, and that's what we're doing. We feel confident, and I'll tell you what, if we keep playing like this, it's going to be a really, really, fun season."
Burnett (10-4) limited the Rays to B.J. Upton's third-inning single until allowing an unearned run in the sixth, when Upton reached base after striking out on an inside pitch that skipped off Jorge Posada's glove for a passed ball.
Beginning a stretch in which they'll play 19 of 26 on the road, the Yankees showed no signs of a letdown following the club's best homestand (9-1) since June 2004. They've won 23 of their last 29, climbing a season-best 23 games over .500.
Tampa Bay's 7½-game deficit matches its biggest of the season. The Rays never trailed by more than five games en route to winning the AL East and making an improbable run to the World Series last year.
"We can't bury ourselves any further than we are right now," Longoria said. "It becomes a lot tougher to win games late in the year, especially with the teams in our division."
Burnett walked two and struck out five before departing with a 7-1 lead. The Rays scored twice off Jonathan Albaladejo in the eighth before the third New York pitcher, David Robertson, struck out Carlos Pena to escape a jam with two runners on.
Shields hasn't won since beating the New York Mets on June 20, going 0-2 with five no decisions in seven starts since then. He fell to 1-7 lifetime against the Yankees, who have beaten him more than any team.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon concedes his team faces an uphill battle to repeat as division champions and return to the playoffs, however he stressed the race is far from over.
"I hate to be disappointing. It's just another game, and we have to come back tomorrow and play tomorrow," Maddon said. "I don't really apply the same amount of weight that other people do. I really believe in the one-day-at-a-time concept."
Rodriguez was back in the Yankees lineup after resting Sunday. He went 1 for 4 with a walk and exchanged words with plate umpire Brian Knight after taking a called third strike in the fifth inning. ... With OF Brett Gardner on the 15-day disabled list after breaking his left thumb, the Yankees only had three position players available off the bench -- Cody Ransom, Jose Molina and Eric Hinske. ... The Rays activated Shouse (left elbow strain) from the DL and optioned RHP Dale Thayer to Triple-A Durham.