Yanks beat Rangers to grab share of first
Teixeira, Matsui, Cano hit homers; Burnett earns victory
ARLINGTON -- A.J. Burnett hurled six scoreless innings to post his first victory in more than a month, and Hideki Matsui homered twice as the Yankees gained a share of first place with a 9-2 rout of the Rangers on Wednesday.
After winning his first two starts as a Yankee, Burnett had not posted a victory since April 14, but he came out firing against Texas to snap that string with six innings of three-hit ball, moving New York into a tie atop the American League East with the Red Sox.
"It's been a while," Burnett said. "I felt strong and basically went after them. It's the best I've felt mechanically in a very long time. I had a few walks and only went six, but you've got to start somewhere."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't put Burnett's performance on his highlight reel, since it took the right-hander 118 pitches to navigate the six frames, which could have been his workload for a complete game.
"I thought he really had a gritty performance," Girardi said. "He had some long counts and some long at-bats, and his control was not as good as we've seen it. But he never gave in, and made pitches."
So the Yankees had no problem with calling it progress, especially in a contest where there was a total team effort. Even Chien-Ming Wang stepped up with two scoreless innings of relief, typical of the way New York has been able to find contributors to claw out of their early-season doldrums.
"It all starts with starting pitching," Teixeira said. "If we get good starting pitching, we have a chance to win every single night with our offense. These guys, all year, they've been doing a great job."
As part of a 15-hit attack, Teixeira put the Yankees on the board in the first inning with a two-run homer to left off Rangers starter Derek Holland, his 15th of the season.
Backup catcher Kevin Cash and team captain Derek Jeter stroked back-to-back doubles in the second inning to increase the Yankees' lead to three runs, though Holland would hold New York there into the sixth.
Having worked with hitting coach Kevin Long to improve his balance, Matsui led off the sixth inning with a solo homer, his sixth, and Holland exited after allowing hits to both Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner -- the last among a list of 10 hits surrendered by Holland in all.
"We're starting to see our offense click on all cylinders," Long said. "You can never be too content. You hate to be over-happy about something. ... We've got to keep moving forward, because we're in May and we've got a long way to go."
Cash greeted reliever Jason Jennings with a two-run single, ending Holland's line with six runs (five earned), and Matsui belted a two-run shot off Warner Madrigal in the seventh before Robinson Cano completed New York's scoring with a solo shot, his ninth, off Kris Benson in the ninth.
Burnett had gone 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA over the seven-game winless span, tying his longest drought since the end of the 2005 season, though he had maintained he was close.
The difficulty, pitching coach Dave Eiland had told him, was just keeping his mechanics sound consistently throughout the game and not lapsing for three or four pitches a night. He avoided that Wednesday, making big offerings when he had to.
"There were no mistakes," Burnett said. "I threw it where I wanted it to go tonight for the most part, and, if not for a few walks, it'd be a different game. But you've got to start somewhere."
The Phillies weren't much of a visitor in Burnett's previous start on May 22, as Jimmy Rollins slugged Burnett's first pitch out of the park, but Burnett could have pitched well enough to win during his troubled span.
"The two games before that he was throwing the ball really well," Cash said. "He didn't have anything to show for it. We needed to come out and get him some runs and get him a win, and then what he did against this lineup was very impressive."
It took more energy out of him, but Burnett said that he was able to navigate the tough Rangers lineup without one costly mistake pitch, though he walked four and struck out seven.
"He was outstanding tonight, really good," Cash said. "He spotted his fastball really well and got into a couple of little jams, and then quickly got out of them."
Texas had at least one baserunner in all but one of Burnett's innings, though the Rangers never were able to advance any as far as third base. The only home team scoring of the game came in the seventh inning, when Ian Kinsler belted a two-run homer off reliever Jose Veras.
"He was pretty good," Kinsler said of Burnett. "He's always good, it doesn't matter what night you catch him on, he's always tough. We worked him OK and made him throw a lot of pitches, but he did a great job of keeping innings from exploding."
That was good enough for the Yankees, who posted their 12th victory in 15 games heading into their off-day Thursday, their first since May 11. They will be able to at least enjoy the morning, knowing where they reside in the newspaper standings for the first time in 2009.
"It's where you want to be," Girardi said. "You want to be up at the top all the time. We went through some tough times, and we were really scuffling. We bounced back very well, and it's been a team effort. Everyone has contributed, and that's the great thing about it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.