On Friday night, the Rays were kings of the world, reigning like a brash, up-and-coming group of youngsters, taking the Yankees to the woodshed for a 14-4 whipping. Twenty-four hours later, the worm had turned, as the Yankees administered a demoralizing sweep of the Rays in a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees took a 7-3 win in the opener before winning the nightcap, 17-5, in front of a crowd of 26,491.
The Yankees "smelled the blood and went after it," manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays recalled J.P. Howell from Triple-A Durham to start the second game. His demotion had come about because of Monday's off-day, which allowed the Rays to operate with four starters until the second time through the rotation reached the back end. Howell stayed in turn while in Durham, but Saturday night's results were eerily similar to his last Major League outing, on July 5 at Boston, when he allowed six runs on six hits in two-thirds of an inning to take the loss.
Unlike the Boston nightmare, when Howell didn't make it out of the first, the left-hander managed to make it through the opening frame on Saturday despite surrendering three runs. By the time he had recorded nine outs, the Yankees had cashed in nine hits in three innings to fuel a 7-2 lead.
"We needed a better start from Howell and didn't get it," Maddon said. "They just weren't missing it [against Howell]."
Howell said that for him it's all about catching a groove.
"And catching it early," Howell said. "Catching it in the fourth inning is too late."
While Howell took his lumps, Yankees starter Matt DeSalvo continued to tiptoe on thin ice. Johnny Damon saved DeSalvo with two dazzling catches in left field to rob Akinori Iwamura of extra bases his first two times at bat. But DeSalvo's good fortune did not hold.
B.J. Upton singled home two runs in the fifth, and one out later, Delmon Young singled to chase DeSalvo. Josh Wilson's sacrifice fly in the sixth made the game interesting by cutting the lead to 7-5. But the Yankees quickly got back to work in the sixth when they reached reliever Jay Witasick for five runs -- including Alex Rodriguez's 497th career home run -- to put the game out of reach at 12-5.
Brian Stokes absorbed the Yankees' punishment in the seventh, when they sent nine hitters to the plate and scored five runs, with Hideki Matsui's three-run homer serving as the big blow to make it 17-5.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.