ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) – A.J. Burnett pitched six innings without giving up a hit before his offense broke open a close game in the New York Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Burnett (2-0), who joined the Yankees as a free agent from Toronto, kept the American League champions scoreless until the seventh when the Rays had three consecutive singles to score their two runs. The right-hander struck out nine and walked one.
“He was pretty solid for eight innings,” Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who was struck out twice by Burnett, told reporters. “It’s tough as a hitter to give in and tip your hat to a guy, but give credit where credit is due.”
New York’s Mark Teixeira broke the 2-2 deadlock with a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the eighth before the Yankees scored four runs in the ninth, with Derek Jeter hitting a two-out three-run homer.
Nick Swisher also homered for the Yankees, who lost to the Rays 15-5 on Monday.
Tampa Bay did not have a hit until Carl Crawford led off the seventh with the first of three consecutive singles. Carlos Pena, with the third single, made it a 2-1 game and Pat Burrell followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the score.
Burnett, who pitched a no-hitter in 2001, admitted he had been hoping for another.
“Everybody was thinking about it, even me,” Burnett said.
“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t. I was putting the ball where I wanted to. It definitely could have happened, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Brett Gardner, whose ground-rule double provided the Yankees’ first run in the fourth, and Jeter both went 3-for-5.
J.P Howell (0-1), who pitched the eighth for Tampa Bay, was given the loss. Starter Matt Garza allowed five hits and two runs over seven innings. He struck out nine and walked two.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)