The New York Yankees are beginning to realize just how good they are. Gary Sheffield snapped a seventh-inning tie with a two-out double, and Javier Vazquez pitched the Yankees to a 5-2 victory Thursday in New York for another sweep of the Baltimore Orioles.
Alex Rodriguez drove in a run and scored for the surging Yankees, who have won nine of 10 to open a season-high 2 1/2-game lead over Boston in the AL East.
"We just feel like we can win every ballgame," Sheffield said. "Somebody is going to get the big hit."
The Yankees own the Orioles, winning eight straight meetings dating to last season and 45 of their past 62 games against Baltimore.
Javy Lopez homered for the Orioles, but rookie manager Lee Mazzilli remained winless in six games against former boss Joe Torre. The Yankees have outscored Baltimore 59-31 this year, including a three-game sweep last week at Camden Yards.
"They're still better than us," Rafael Palmeiro said.
Miguel Cairo singled leading off the seventh against John Parrish (3-2). Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch one out later, and Sheffield's two-run double into the right-field corner off B.J. Ryan gave New York a 4-2 lead.
"This is the best I've felt all year," said Sheffield, hitting .289 with six homers and 33 RBIs. "This is the game you want the most out of the whole series. The third one is the hardest."
Hideki Matsui added an RBI single, a one-hop smash off Palmeiro's arm at first base.
Vazquez (6-4) won his third straight start, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. Tom Gordon pitched a hitless eighth before Mariano Rivera got three straight outs for his 21st save in 22 chances and third of the series.
The Yankees have the best record in the majors at 33-19.
"I think the one thing that separates us now, you know, the big walks, the good at-bats, grinding it out. That takes its toll," Rodriguez said.
Jeter went 0-for-2. He had driven in at least one run in nine consecutive games, the longest run by a Yankee since Don Mattingly also went nine games in 1987.
"I'm not going to break any RBI records so it doesn't matter to me. We won the game," Jeter said. "The last three or four weeks I think we've been playing outstanding."
Bubba Crosby led off the first with a single and scored on Rodriguez's single.
In the second, Lopez hit his seventh homer over the retired numbers in left-center.
The key sequence came in the fourth, after the Orioles loaded the bases with none out on three straight singles. Vazquez hit Lopez with a 2-2 pitch, forcing in a run, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre came out to calm the right-hander.
"He was as upset as I've seen him all year. He was very upset at himself," Stottlemyre said. "We all lose it momentarily at times. I just wanted to make sure there wasn't any carry-over."
Not at all. Vazquez escaped further damage when B.J. Surhoff popped out, Luis Matos struck out and Larry Bigbie grounded out.
"When I'm in a jam I just try to concentrate on the hitter, not on the men I have on base," Vazquez said. "It was a huge inning for me."
The Orioles knew they missed their chance — and they didn't get another hit the rest of the way.
"Big moment in the game was right there. Not anything else that happened after," Palmeiro said. "In that inning, we had them up against the ropes."
New York tied it at 2 in the sixth when Rodriguez led off with a double and scored on Ruben Sierra's high-chop double over Palmeiro.
DEVIL RAYS 5, TWINS 2: At Minneapolis, Aubrey Huff put Tampa Bay ahead with a three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Devil Rays beat the slumping Minnesota Twins. Held hitless for five innings by Twins starter Johan Santana (2-4), the Devil Rays rallied to win a road series for the first time since last Aug. 26-28 at Seattle. Tampa Bay arrived at the Metrodome this week with the worst road record in the majors, now 6-18, and took three of four to end a streak of 11 straight road series lost — including all seven this year.
ROYALS 9, TIGERS 6: At Detroit, Carlos Beltran had three hits and four RBIs to lead the Kansas City Royals over the Detroit Tigers. Dennys Reyes (2-0) remained unbeaten in six starts this season despite giving up five runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. Reliever Nate Field got four outs and Jeremy Affeldt finished for his fifth save in six tries. Detroit has lost eight of 11.
ANGELS 5, INDIANS 2: At Anaheim, Calif., Raul Mondesi homered and threw out a runner at the plate to help the Angels beat Cleveland. Anaheim got a two-run triple from Jose Guillen to hand AL ERA leader Cliff Lee his first loss of the season.