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Rapid Reaction: Yankees 7, Rays 0

What it means: That the Yankees are a step closer to regaining first place in the AL East for the first time since April 25. Their 7-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays tonight moves them to within 1/2-game of the division-leading Rays, with two games left in this series.

Ageless Andy: All Andy Pettitte's got is a 40-year-old arm and an 88 MPH fastball, but he does more with it than anyone in baseball. Pettitte shut down the Rays on two hits, walked two and struck out 10 over 7-1/3 innings to earn his third win. His 2.88 ERA is nearly a full run better than any other Yankees starter (CC Sabathia is next at 3.68). Another incredible performance by a guy who has become the de facto ace of the staff.

Russ on the bus: And a grand ride it was, a round-trip of the diamond with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Russell Martin's fifth HR of the season was only the third Yankees hit in their last 46 plate appearances with the bases loaded -- as a team, they are hitting .150 in the most advantageous situation a club could ask for --and it gave them a 6-0 lead.

Nothing succeeds like failure: The Yankees preceeded Martin's grand salami with yet another bases-loaded failure in the first inning, only this time, one of their three fruitless at-bats resulted in two runs when Elliott Johnson bounced his throw past first base on Raul Ibanez' routine grounder to short. Who said BA with the bases loaded was an important stat, anyway?

Freddy, get a mop: Freddy Garcia came on to relieve Pettitte in the eighth and allowed two hits (but no runs), and then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

Defenseless Shields: Once again, the Yankees abused James Shields, beating the Rays righty for the 13th time in 18 decisions. It was his fifth straight loss to the Yankees in the Bronx and he is 2-8 overall when pitching at the Yankees home park.

Hi, Deki: Hideki Matsui's first visit to Yankee Stadium drew appreciative cheers from the crowd his first time up, but his night was a washout; he took a quiet 0-for-4.

What's coming: A column on Pettitte, of course, plus whatever blog items I can dig up in the post-game clubhouse.

Tomorrow: The Yankees try to move into the AL East penthouse as Ivan Nova (6-2, 5.60) faces rookie RHP Alex Cobb (2-1, 3.71), first pitch at 7:05 p.m.