Power on display as Yanks beat Rangers
Gardner sets table for big bats to support Burnett's outing
NEW YORK -- On days like Saturday, when the Yankees beat the Rangers, 7-3, in the Bronx, trying to navigate through New York's lineup simply seems unreasonable -- like trying to cross town at rush hour.
You're going to get stuck somewhere, and it's not going to be pleasant.
There were no easy outs, and there appeared to be no weaknesses in the Yankees' offense against Texas. Power? The left side of the Bombers' infield went deep off Rangers reliever Doug Mathis. Speed? Brett Gardner twice extended innings with two-out infield hits, and New York had six infield hits on the day. Patience? How about Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher seeing 24 pitches in three combined at-bats against starter Scott Feldman?
Feldman, the Rangers' ace, wasn't so much beaten by the Yankees as he was worn down. He allowed seven hits (three of the infield variety) and four earned runs before exiting with one out in the third inning. The 73 pitches it took Feldman to retire seven Yankees was the same amount for CC Sabathia's six-inning complete game the night before. Only four of those pitches resulted in swings and misses from New York hitters.
It was Feldman's shortest outing since July 29 of last season against Detroit.
"We just do our best to keep [the offense] in it," said starter A.J. Burnett. "It's only a matter of time until they explode. They did it early today."
As intimidating as the heart of the Yankees' order can be, Saturday's hero was Gardner, the No. 9 hitter who had sat the past two games. His three singles, if put together, would have barely reached the outfield grass. Individually, none reached the dirt and only one got past the pitcher, but two of them prolonged innings and led to a half-dozen Yankee runs.
In the second, Gardner hit a dribbler down the first-base line. Feldman fielded it cleanly but, with Gardner blocking his throwing lane, took first baseman Chris Davis off the bag with a wide toss. New York followed with singles by Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira around a Nick Johnson walk to plate the game's first two runs.
An inning later, Gardner beat out a two-out grounder to short to score Jorge Posada from third. Posada had reached base with his 1500th career hit, becoming the 19th Yankee and fourth Yankee catcher to reach the mark -- Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson had preceded him.
"Anytime you achieve something like that, it's noteworthy," Posada said. "You mention people like that, it's exciting to be in company like that."
Gardner wasn't done, though. With runners at the corners and Jeter at the plate, Gardner broke for second and induced a throwing error from catcher Taylor Teagarden that scored the run from third. Three pitches later, Jeter took Mathis deep to left for his third home run of the homestand and a 6-0 lead. Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the fourth -- his first of the season and 584th of his career, moving past Mark McGwire into sole possession of eighth place all-time -- to give the Yankees a touchdown lead.
"That's what Gardy does: He creates problems for the defense. He takes the attention away from just trying to get the hitter out and puts pressure on the catcher and the infielders -- everyone involved," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's a pest."
"That's the worst," Burnett said about giving up infield singles. "As a pitcher, you have to wait for the next at-bat and try to strike him out, so he doesn't hit the ball."
Of course, Burnett wasn't the one who had to deal with Gardner all afternoon, and he made dealing with the Rangers look decidedly easier. Although not as dominant as Sabathia was on Friday for the Bombers, Burnett finished with a better line, blanking Texas over seven innings on six hits to earn his second win of the year.
"The whole day I had confidence in my fastball," Burnett said. "I knew if I could get ahead and stay aggressive, they'd be swinging."
Burnett executed that plan nearly flawlessly, with six of his seven strikeouts coming off his fastball -- three of them vs. Nelson Cruz. The only serious threat he faced was in the fifth, when he induced a popup from Julio Borbon and a flyout from Michael Young to leave the bases loaded.
"When he's on, he's one of the best pitchers in baseball," said Curtis Granderson. "Sure enough, he's been that in the first few starts."
And on days like Saturday, when the Yankees are on, they certainly seem like the best team in baseball. Without much assistance from Teixeira or Rodriguez, and against four of their worthiest competitors in the American League, the Bombers have started the season with four consecutive series wins. They have won with pitching, power, speed and -- on particularly scary days for the American League -- all three.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.