The Tampa Bay Rays couldn't string two home wins together against the division rival Yankees as the bats fell silent again. The Rays put together six hits for a mere two runs. The Yankees end their six game losing streak and are back two games in the AL East.
Reliever Cesar Ramos made quick work of the eighth. After a single to Mark Teixeira, he got a double play out of Alex Rodriguez and a first pitch ground out from Robinson Cano. This should be applauded, as Ramos is a lefty pitching to the first two right handed batters in the thick of the Yankee lineup. Matt Joyce singled in the bottom of the eighth, but no one could bring him in.
Rookie right handed reliever Brandon Gomes came in to face Russell Martin, Eduardo Nunez (for Jorge Posada) and Brett Gardner. Martin bats righty and could have been a favorable match up, but he singled to left. Nunez came in for Posada, putting a righty in when a switch hitter could've stayed at the plate, but it made more sense when Nunez sac bunted Martin to second. He stayed in for the difficult match up of Gardner and gave up an RBI double to center. Maddon left Gomes out there to finish what he started and face lefty RF Dickerson who flew out, righty Derek Jeter (who RBI singled), and lefty Curtis Granderson to fly out to end the top of the ninth.
New York answered the Rays with their own inexperienced reliever and put Amauri Sanit on the mound in his second career appearance for New York. In his first, Sanit went 4.2 innings and gave up four hits, three runs, hit two batters, walked two and struck out two, so there was incentive for the home crowd to believe the Rays could overcome the five run deficit.
After a groundout, Sanit delivered an 81 mph meatball over the heart of the plate that Kelly Shoppach appeared to homer to left field, but it struck a cat walk on the way and Brett Gardner was able to catch it for the out. The umpires ran the replay for a good while and then let the call stand. Maddon then pulled lefty Sam Fuld to allow the right handed Sean Rodriguez to face the right handed Sanit. S-Rod walked and Ben Zobrist doubled to bring him home.
Johnny Damon came to the plate, and with a 6-2 lead and two outs Joe Girardi pulled his reliever to put in Mariano Rivera... (what.) With a man on second, Rivera defended the lead with six 90 mph cutters to get Damon to ground out. Game over 6-2.
- There is a clear difference between Joe Maddon and Joe Girardi. Maddon lets his men finish what they started. Sometimes that means letting your pitcher allow another run like tonight, but most nights it lets the pitcher gain high pressure experience and take responsibility for who he let on base. Twice tonight we saw Girardi pull a right handed reliever to replace him with another to face Johnny Damon in two out situations that were no strong threat. To the Rays advantage, this was one more game Mariano Rivera got to pitch, and one day closer to his retirement. The Rays will also have one more rested reliever in the pen for not pulling Gomes.
- James Shields ate seven innings for the seventh appearance in a row. The man is a workhorse. He struck out nine on the night, but his four earned runs (two of which were solo shots to Alex Rodriguez) gave him the loss and a new high 2.26 ERA. You can still have faith in James Shields.
- Zobrist had a rare error on the night, missing out on the double play by throwing the ball over the first baseman's head to allow the Yankee's fourth run to score.
- New York allowed ten base runners all night, six of those were Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon. The Rays had a chance to do some damage in the sixth with bases loaded and one out, but David Robinson was too much for the Rays as he struck out the hot hitting duo B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman. If you're looking for where the Rays lost the game, this was it.
- Sam Fuld getting pulled for Sean Rodriguez against a right handed (terrible) reliever does not bode well for his reputation at the plate. Fuld has become a home town hero, but to keep his spot on the field he needs to be more productive on the base pads and at the plate. The speedy Fuld has two stolen bases this week, but the point is moot if he cannot get on base. If management deems the rookie Desmond Jennings is ready, Fuld may return to the bench as the ideal defensive replacement and baserunner.
- Kelly Shoppach hitting the catwalk will only add fuel to the fire that the Rays need a new stadium. The front office has publicly acknowledged the Trop is not sufficient, and the media has had some fun as well: "In a strange ploy to get a new ballpark, the AL East-leading Rays are now openly refusing to win at Tropicana Field as they're [11-14] at home..." -- Mark Heilig, ESPN.
- The Rays travel to Toronto for another two game division series against the Blue Jays before interleague play starts Friday.