Sweep has Yanks motoring into Motor City

After limping out of Baltimore where they lost two of three games to begin the current trip, the Yankees got upright at Tampa Bay. Did they ever.

Their first sweep of a series of three or more games at Tropicana Field in nearly 10 years was just the antidote the Yankees needed to move on to Detroit where they will play the team with the best record (10-2) in the major leagues over the next four days. After that, they pair up against the club with the best current mark in the National League, the 10-3 Mets back at Yankee Stadium for the first round of the Subway Series.

The Yankees’ offense came alive and their bullpen thrived in the three games at St. Petersburg, Fla., against a Tampa Bay club that has given them trouble in recent years. Since Sept. 2, 2011, the Yankees are 26-37 against the Rays. Tampa Bay has not lost a season series to the Yankees since 2009 and are 52-43 since.

The Rays are dealing with some major injuries, which is why it was all the more pivotal for the Yankees to take advantage of them and get their own record back to .500 at 6-6. The Yanks batted .268 over the three games with three doubles, three triples and three home runs. They averaged 6.3 runs per game and hit .333 (7-for-21) with runners in scoring position.

Conversely, the Yankees pitching staff limited Tampa Bay to one hit in 17 at-bats (.059) with runners in scoring positions. The Rays were a combined 0-for-14 in that department Saturday night and Sunday. The usually dangerous Evan Longoria was merely 1-for-10 (.100) in the series.

Masahiro Tanaka had a brilliant start Saturday night following a shaky one Friday night by Adam Warren. Michael Pineda was just okay Sunday, but the bullpen made up for lapses in the rotation. The Yankees’ relief corps was not scored upon in 10 1/3 innings during which it allowed only five hits and four walks with 15 strikeouts. 

After the 9-0 rout Saturday, the Yankees were in a tight game most of Sunday and emerged on top by a 5-3 score. They got a run right off the bat against Matt Andriese, but the Rays shot back with two runs in the bottom of the first inning on a home run by Steven Souza Jr. The Yankees regained the lead with a four-hit third inning and kept it despite Pineda’s inconsistency.

Dellin Betances worked out of a jam in the seventh, then pitched a scoreless eighth to hand the baton to Andrew Miller, who picked up his fourth save by striking out the side after having yielded a leadoff double.

At the top of the order Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner were on base a combined five times and scored two runs. Alex Rodriguez also scored two runs and hit a scorching double. Chase Headley knocked in two runs with a double and a single. Mark Teixeira also had two RBI with a sacrifice fly and a productive infield out. Garrett Jones, playing right field for ailing Carlos Beltan (cold), had three hits, including a triple, and Didi Gregorius contributed a pair of singles.

The result was the Yankees’ first sweep of a series of three or more games in St. Pete since Sept. 9-13, 2005 and their first overall since a three-gamer Aug. 22-24 last year against the White Sox.

Now it is off to Comerica Park, which has been another horror house for the Yankees. They are 6-10 there since May 3, 2011 and 28-32 overall since the park opened in 2000. The Yanks are 1-4-1 in their last six series in Detroit since 2010 and were 1-4 combined in postseason games there in 2011 and ’12.

The Yankees do catch a break in the coming series in that they will have not have to face former teammate Shane Green, who won again Sunday to push his record to 3-0. The righthander, who went to Detroit in the three-team trade that sent Gregorius to the Bronx from Arizona, has allowed only one earned run and two overall in 23 innings for an ERA of 0.39. Green has allowed 12 hits and five walks with 11 strikeouts.

It looks as if the Yankees are finally running into some luck.

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