By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — For the second day in a row, a Yankees starter left early with an injury. This time, it could really hurt.
Andy Pettitte strained his left groin Sunday and is expected to go on the disabled list, but New York knocked around All-Star starter David Price and got a brilliant effort from its bullpen in a 9-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It was a good game — with the exception of Andy,” Derek Jeter said. “Someone else is going to have to pick it up.”
Robinson Cano hit a two-run triple, Jorge Posada a two-run double and Alex Rodriguez added his 598th home run for the Yankees, who took two of three in a series between the top two teams in baseball to move three games ahead of Tampa Bay in the AL East.
New York capped an emotional weekend filled with tributes to late owner George Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard by winning for the 10th time in 12 games. Five relievers picked up Pettitte, who hurt himself on a 3-1 pitch to Kelly Shoppach in the third inning.
“I think he’ll probably end up on the DL,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We have to weather it. That’s our job.”
The 38-year-old Pettitte, who pitched in the All-Star game last Tuesday, was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for an MRI.
“It was painful out there,” said Pettitte, who missed 15 days with the same injury in 2001. “The doctor said the next couple days how I feel is probably going to dictate how long I’ll be out.”
Chad Gaudin, Dustin Moseley and Sergio Mitre are potential options to fill Pettitte’s spot in the rotation if needed.
“No matter who we send out there, we expect to win,” Girardi said.
Pettitte’s injury came one day after New York starter A.J. Burnett lasted only two-plus innings in a 10-5 loss, leaving the game with cuts on both hands following an angry fit in the clubhouse.
Frustrated by his ineffective outing, Burnett slammed open a set of double doors during the second inning Saturday, slicing both palms on the plastic lineup-card holders fastened to the entry. A day later, he said he apologized to his teammates for the outburst and will make his next scheduled start.
Moseley tossed three innings in relief of Burnett, and Gaudin followed with four — leaving the Yankees without an available long man Sunday. So they put this one together piece by piece out of the bullpen.
Chan Ho Park (2-1) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the win and Mariano Rivera needed one pitch to finish a game that lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes.
“It was a great job by the bullpen, especially after yesterday. You couldn’t pick a worse day for me to go down,” Pettitte said.
The lefty was replaced by David Robertson, and Yankees fielders headed for the dugout to cool off while Robertson took as much time as he needed to warm up.
The right-hander then escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
“I think Joe did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “Robertson was kind of a bold move and it paid off. I think those were the two biggest outs of the game.”
After falling behind 3-0 on Carlos Pena’s first-inning homer, the Yankees tied it in the third on Mark Teixeira’s RBI single. They broke it open two innings later with four runs off Price (12-5), who wilted in the 91-degree heat during a 36-pitch fifth.
“It was pretty brutal, but I can’t really blame anything on it,” Price said. “I just wasn’t very good.”
After tossing two scoreless innings Tuesday night for the American League at Angel Stadium, Price slogged through his worst start of the season. He entered with a league-best ERA of 2.42, but the 24-year-old lefty gave up seven runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings.
“I didn’t get myself prepared for this game the way I should,” Price said.
Cano’s two-out triple off the left-field fence cut it to 3-2 in the first. Jeter and Rodriguez had RBI singles in the fifth before Posada’s double made it 7-3.
Nick Swisher added an RBI single in the sixth off Andy Sonnanstine, and Rodriguez hit the first pitch in the seventh off an advertisement at the back of the Tampa Bay bullpen, way beyond the 399 sign.
Gabe Kapler hit a solo homer off Boone Logan in the seventh, but the Rays stranded seven runners through the first three innings and 12 overall.
“We kind of had them on the ropes again, and then it kind of went away,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought we played good baseball for three days. We just didn’t pitch well today.”
NOTES: Maddon gave All-Star LF Carl Crawford a partial rest, starting him at DH. Kapler played left field. Crawford lost track of how many outs there were on Evan Longoria’s inning-ending flyout in the eighth. … Joba Chamberlain struck out three in 1 2-3 innings, allowing a run in the ninth on pinch-hitter Matt Joyce’s RBI double before Rivera came on. … New York scored six runs with two outs.