<
>

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 20, Braves 6

ATLANTA -- The Yankees have marched through Atlanta once again, Sunday's 20-6 victory over the pitiful Braves completing a sweep that kept the Yankees exactly where they started the weekend -- 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays, who honestly look as if they will never lose again.

In that case, the Yankees will need to keep beating up on baseball's weak links, as they did over the past three games, outscoring the Braves 38-11. Up next? The last-place Boston Red Sox.

Too many offensive highlights to single anyone out -- everyone in the starting lineup except pitcher Nathan Eovaldi had at least one hit and eight players had at least one RBI -- but of note is the fact that Stephen Drew left the ballpark for the first time all season with his batting average over .200. (He's at .201 to be exact.) Drew had such a big day (4-for-4, 4 RBIs) -- and attracted so much attention for it -- that he was trending on Twitter nationwide, not just in New York, for much of the afternoon.

No, these are not your father's Atlanta Braves, or Bobby Cox's Braves, or Leo Mazzone's pitching staff, but a pretty bad team that was precisely what this struggling Yankees offense needed to snap out of its recent funk. It was the Yankees' second 20-run game of the season; they beat the Texas Rangers 21-5 on July 28.

Pinch me: Sent up as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh of a suddenly tight (8-5) game, Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees some breathing room when he lined the first pitch he saw from sidewinding right-hander Peter Moylan into center for a two-run single to make it 10-5 Yankees. That opened the floodgates -- Brett Gardner had an RBI single, Carlos Beltran had an infield hit (!), Brian McCann lined a two-run single, Greg Bird doubled in one more, Chase Headley collected his third and fourth RBIs of the game with another double and Stephen Drew singled in the last of nine runs in the inning -- to blow it open to 17-5. The Yankees sent 14 batters to the plate in the inning.

Three-run Jake: Jacoby Ellsbury got the Yankees on the board in the second inning when he yanked a hanging slider over the right-field fence with two runners on for a 3-0 lead. It was Ellsbury's seventh home run of the season and first since Aug. 16.

Chase this: The Yankees added two more runs in the third on a home run to dead center by Chase Headley, his 10th, with Greg Bird (walk) on base.

Even Stephen: And the long balls kept on coming as Stephen Drew jumped on the first pitch he saw in the third, sending it on a high arc into the right-field seats, just inside the foul pole, with Didi Gregorius (walk) on base to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead. It was Drew's 16th home run of the season, the second-highest total of his career (21 in 2008).

Everyone gets into the act: Even relief pitcher Branden Pinder, sent in to babysit a 17-5 game, added to the slaughter with an RBI double in his first major league at-bat in the top of the eighth to make it 19-6.

Unraveling: After having allowed two runs in the third, Eovaldi regained control of the game until the sixth, when the first three batters got hits, the third of which was Andrelton Simmons' two-run single that made it an 8-4 game. A fifth run was charged to Eovaldi on pinch hitter Jonny Gomes' bloop RBI single to right off Adam Warren. Eovaldi's line -- 5-plus innings, 8 hits, 5 earned runs -- was his worst since June 16, when he allowed eight earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Miami Marlins.

Next: Flight to Boston, followed by three games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Pitching matchups: Ivan Nova (5-6, 4.50) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (7-5, 4.39) Monday at 7:10 p.m.; Michael Pineda (9-8, 4.19) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (6-11, 5.47) Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. and Masahiro Tanaka (10-6, 3.62) vs. LHP Henry Owens (2-1, 4.03) Wednesday at 4:05 p.m.