Three of the first six Yankees to come to the plate against Andy Sonnanstine last night hit solo home runs, including one on the second pitch of the game by Johnny Damon (Alex Rodriguez and Morgan Ensberg, who got his second start of the year at first base, hit the other two). When the Yankees bounced Sonnanstine ("Sonny" per the inscription on his glove) in the midst of a four-run fourth inning, it seemed the Bombers would cruise to an easy victory.
Making just his second actual start of the season, Ian Kennedy held the Rays to two runs over six innings (7 H, 2 BB, 4 K) and came back out to start the seventh, but the first batter he faced in that frame, Jason Bartlett, lined a comebacker off Kennedy's right hip. Kennedy emerged with just a bruise, but was in obvious pain, so with Bartlett on first and the three lefties at the top of the Rays' order due up, Girardi called on Billy Traber. Traber got Akinori Iwamura to fly out for the first out of the inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Carl Crawford on a 0-1 pitch to make it 7-4 Yankees. Traber then hit Carlos Peña on the hand and was pulled in favor of Brian Bruney, who promptly gave up another two-run homer, this one to B.J. Upton, to make it 7-6, and then Even Longoria's first major league tater to tie the score.
Facing Al Reyes in the top of the eighth, Girardi pinch-hit for Alberto Gonzalez, who had started at second base in place of the struggling Robinson Cano, with Robinson Cano and was rewarded when Cano hit a taser . . . er, laser out to right field to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead.
Brian Bruney, who had gotten the final two outs of the seventh after giving up the two homers that tied the game, got the first two outs of the eight, but the second was a long fly ball to left and, with those lefties at the top of the order coming back up, Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera for a four-out save, which is exactly what Mo delivered, along with an 8-7 Yankee win.
A few game notes: Derek Jeter went 2 for 5 and, though he didn't run all-out, didn't appear limited by his quadraceps. Gonzalez and Hideki Matsui were the only Yankees without hits, though Gonzalez drew a walk. Alex Rodriguez went 4 for 5 with his 521st career homer. Morgan Ensberg went 2 for 5 in his spot start and is hitting .385 as a Yankee despite his infrequent use thus far. The Yankees' eight runs and 15 hits were both season highs.
Finally, while Cano's homer was obviously the key hit in the game, my favorite might have been Chad Moeller's first Yankee hit. With one out and Melky Cabrera on first base in the fourth, Girardi put on the hit-and-run. The Rays guessed correctly and pitched out, but Moeller reached out and slapped the pitch past Iwamura (who was heading over to cover the bag for the expected throw) picking up a single and moving Cabrera to third base. Both men ultimately scored on a double by Johnny Damon amid the Yankees four-run rally in that inning.