Yankees-Rays: NY Stars Shine Bright Under Tropicana Dome

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2009

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 13:  Catcher Jose Molina #26 of  the New York Yankees checks a bat before play against the Boston Red Sox March 13, 2009 at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees defeated the American League champion, Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2 Tuesday night under the dome at Tropicana Field.

Despite the artificial covering of the domed stadium, a number of Yankee stars shined bright this night.

The most obvious was pitcher A. J. Burnett who pitched a no hitter for six innings before a Carl Crawford single to left field, leading off the seventh, spoiled Burnett's bid for his second career no-no.

Burnett ended up giving up three straight singles in that seventh inning and the Rays managed to tie the score at 2-2.  But Burnett got out of the inning and returned to pitch a perfect eighth, by which time his teammates had given him another lead.

So Burnett was a shining star for the Bombers last night.  But there were others.

Nick Swisher continues to impress everyone, both with his joie de vivre and his hitting.

Swisher hit in the cleanup spot and went 2-for-4, including a fourth inning solo home run. 

Derek Jeter was very good at the plate accumulating three hits in five at-bats. The most important was a three-run homer in the top of the ninth that gave the Yanks what felt like a comfortable five run lead.

Brian Bruney came in to pitch the ninth inning.  Jeter's home run had made the lead so large that there was no save situation for Mariano Rivera.

So Joe Girardi left Mo in the bullpen and called on Bruney. 

All Bruney did was strike out the side to end the game. 

And his strikeouts were against the top of the Rays line up which had been so damaging to the Yankees the night before.

Another star was rookie center fielder, Brett Gardner, who began the game with a single to left field.  Gardner went from first to third on Jeter's single to right and scored the first run that inning.

Gardner had two more hits in the game, including a double in the eighth inning that B. J. Upton could not run down in center. Gardner drove in Robinson Cano with that hit and would have easily driven in Melky Cabrera from first base. But the ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double and Cabrera was sent back to third.

One of the other stars for New York got no hits and scored no runs. But he shined for his team nonetheless.

Jose Molina started behind the plate for the third time in eight games. It was the second straight time he has caught A.J. Burnett.

And it was obvious to any close observer that Molina called a great game for Burnett.

The two were obviously in sync throughout the game, mixing blazing fast balls and tight curves to keep the Rays hitters off balance.

Molina could also be seen quietly encouraging Burnett, giving him confidence when he made good pitches. And Burnett made a great many good pitches in this game.

After Crawford spoiled A.J.'s no-hitter in the seventh, Molina walked slowly to the mound to be with Burnett, to calm him and to make sure his pitcher remained aware of the situation.

Burnett said later that he had begun to fantasize about the no-hitter after the third inning.

But when Molina went to the mound with Crawford on first base, the catcher knew  that the game was in question. 

The Yankees were ahead 2-0, but there were no outs, one of the fastest runners in baseball was standing at first and the heart of the Rays lineup was coming to the plate.

Burnett gave up two more singles and the Rays tied the score, but Burnett eventually got out of the inning without giving up the lead and then came back to keep the Yankees in it until they could put some more runs on the board.

Molina is a presence behind home plate. He is a far superior defensive catcher to Jorge Posada and it is becoming obvious Burnett likes to pitch to Jose.

Manager, Joe Girardi, has downplayed the idea that Molina will become Burnett's personal catcher. But Girardi was a catcher and surely he can see the great relationship Burnett is developing with Molina.

Molina was an unsung hero last night but Yankee fans will realize that his star was shining under the dome last night along with all those who got more applause.