Phelps Helps Yanks to Even Score
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 21- With a lineup lacking a .300 hitter and with failure to score runs as of late, the New York Yankees made some lineup changes Friday night before taking the field for the second of four games against the Tampa Bay. The rookie, Zoilo Almonte, a native of the Dominican Republic immediately paid dividends.
Almonte, who came off the bench Thursday night and got his first major league hit, was a part of the change in left field over a slumping Vernon Wells. He went 3-for-4 and hit his first career home run helping starter David Phelps as the Yankees defeated the Rays 6-2 and snapped their season high tying two-game home losing streak.
The first curtain call for Almonte from the crowd of 41,123 came after blasting a shot to right leading off the sixth inning that gave the Yankees a 5-3 advantage.
Right hander David Phelps (5-4) won for the third time in his last four starts at home. He made a start against the Rays at Tropicana Field in Late May and earned the win in a 9-4 Yankees victory allowing four runs on six hits, tossing a career high 7.2 innings.
But this time, with the Yankees looking to retain him in the pitching rotation he was better and getting some runs helped. Phelps tossed 5.2 innings, gave up eight hits, allowing two runs.
“I was throwing the ball more where I wanted to,” said Phelps who impressed Girardi by getting out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth inning. He showed his composure as the Rays stranded all three runners when Desmond Jennings flied out to Brett Gardner in center. He said he was trying to get a ground ball and let the defense work.
Girardi said that was the difference in the game, so did Rays manager Joe Maddon.
“We had good guys coming up there, and that really was the difference maker in the game,” he said. “He’s been tough on us and tough on lefties in general. But with the popup and then Desmond hit that ball kind of okay. That was a big moment in the game.”
As they did the night before, the Yankees played small ball in hoping to generate some runs They did, but much quicker this time. In the first inning, Brett Gardner led off with a base hit, Ichiro Suzuki walked and stole second and Robinson Cano drove a ball to center that scored Gardner from third that scored the Yankees first run of the inning.
New York added two more run in the fourth off Rays’ starter Roberto Hernandez (4-8), who allowed five runs in 7.0 innings and lost for the third time in his last four starts. He fell to 1-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 13-career games against the Yankees.
Girardi, for the time being intends to start Almonte Saturday afternoon when the Rays start right hander Alex Colome (1-0) opposing CC Sabathia, (7-5) in the third game of the four-game series in the Bronx.
“He has a good swing, he’s been a prospect for us a while,” said Girardi about Almonte. The 24-year old almost made the team out of spring training and has speed in the outfield as well.
Girardi added, “We expected him to be a big league player at some point.” With the Yankees struggling for offense, the first start could lead to many more. He became the first Yankee to get three hits in one of his first three major league games since D’Angelo Jimenez compiled four hits at Cleveland in his third game back in September of 1999.
Almonte was going to give the home run ball to his mother in the Dominican Republic.
“I always thought it would happen,” he said about his first big league start. “I worked hard. Whenever this day would come, I knew I would be grateful,” he said through an interpreter.
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