THE RAYS WIN 7-6! CARLOS PENA, WELCOME HOME!
Carlos Pena had a hot and cold day in his first game back in a Rays jersey. His grand slam in the first inning gave the Rays a 4-0 lead, but an error in the third allowed the Yankees to rally and take a 6-4 advantage. He then struck out in his next two at bats, stranding four runners, before a single in the eighth to put men on the corners.
Evan Longoria launched his first home run of the season in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 6-5. But neither team had scored since, and by this point the Yankees hadn't even managed a hit since the fourth inning. The Rays threatened again in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on the corners and no one out, Stephen Vogt stepped in for his first major league at-bat but struck out.
With catcher Jose Molina up, Sean Rodriguez nearly stole home, but Molina fouled the ball back as my heart lept in my throat. They tried it again with two strikes, but this time Molina fouled a bunt for a third strike. The Yankees eighth-inning man David Robertson was looking dominant, and got out of the jam by striking out Matt Joyce looking. It was Joyce's fourth strikeout of the afternoon.
Like in the fifth and seventh innings, the Rays had a chance to tie the game in the eighth, but failed to connect with men on base. The score remained 6-5.
The new $2 million man Fernando Rodney, a change-up reliever, got the nod in the ninth with Kyle Farnsworth on the disabled list. With Rodney's cap turned slightly to the left, pointed towards the Rays' home dugout, he rolled the Yankees 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Brett Gardner.
Mariano Rivera then stepped on the mound. It doesn't matter who you are, you respect this man. At age 42, the inventor of the cutter is the last player in MLB still wearing #42, having been grandfathered in when Jackie Robinson's number was retired league-wide in 1997. And with all due respect, Desmond Jennings singled into center field. Ben Zobrist then had a chance for his first hit of the year and smacked the first pitch to the wall in right center for an RBI triple, tying the game 6-6. (Zobrist is now 3-for-3 against Rivera in his career.)
With a man on third and no one out, the Yankees intentionally walked Evan Longoria and new designated hitter Luke Scott to load the bases for starting short stop Sean Rodriguez. No outs, bases loaded. Joe Girardi shifted the Yanks to a five-man infield, and S-Rod worked a full count before striking out.
Enter Carlos Pena. Without a hit to his name in his career against Mariano Rivera (0-for-11), Pena hit a long fly ball that cleared Gardner in left center and rolled to the wall (video). Ben Zobrist made it home on the single, scoring the winning run.
Mariano Rivera blew the save, and the Rays won the first game of the season - a far cry from last year's 0-6 start.
James Shields and CC Sabathia both had an uncharacteristic day on the mound. The Rays' war horse pitched only fiveinnings, allowing nine hits, three walks, and six earned runs, getting only three strikeouts. (Joe West's "accordion strike zone" probably didn't help.) But Sabathia wasn't much better in six innings pitches, giving up eight hits, three walks, and five earned runs, with seven strikeouts. Both bullpens pitched effectively until Rivera lost his grip. The Rays' bullpen did not allow a hit.