Sometimes the hardest game to watch are those that get so close to that win but still just miss the mark. Such was starter CC Sabathia’s evening against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Actually, Sabathia had a really stellar first 5 innings. It was the 6th inning that began his trouble, losing his control and command and missing his intended spot around the strike zone, allowing the Rays to pounce. His 112 pitches took him through into the 7th inning, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 7 batters — all of which was pretty normal for a standard Sabathia outing. Again, it was the runs allowed was the issue. The 3 he gave up in the 6th inning was just enough to allow them the lead and the eventual win.
Here’s what happened: a single and a walk put two runners in place to score on a double, and a single easily scored the next runner, all before a single out was recorded for that inning. And that was quickly a Rays’ lead and eventual win because the Yankees were never able to overcome that lead offensively. Preston Claiborne came on in the 7th and pitched through the 8th, allowing one more run to score (a solo home run).
The Yankees’ offense actually struck first in the 5th inning. Rodriguez, Wells, and Granderson each singled to load the bases. Then there was a the Austin Romine at-bat. In a 9-pitch at-bat, Romine eventually won the battle earning a walk, which allowed Rodriguez to walk in the first Yankee run, keeping the bases loaded. Then Ichiro Suzuki grounds out, but still advances all the runners, scoring Wells for the second (and last) Yankee run. Actually, this was an excellent play by all the runners, as it should have been an easy double play to end the inning and prevent the run from being scored, but due to some great base-running, it was only a single out for the Yankees.
Okay, I’m glad they had a clip of this. A great defensive play was made by Mark Reynolds (once again) in the 5th inning. So he fields a slow dribbling grounder way far off 1st base, which turns the play into a race for the base between him and the runner. He knows he won’t make the bag in time, so he goes diving into the runner, tagging him out and they both go sprawling on the field. The out is made, and the defense proves itself a worthy part of the Yankees (and really the main reason why they are still in consideration for the postseason.
When it was all over, it was 4-2 Rays, with the Yankees falling further behind in the AL East pennant race. If Sabathia had continued his seriously impressive start for his entire outing, we would most definitely be talking about a win and a push forward.
But the reality is that the Rays are making every effort to make their case for the AL East pennant. They have some really great power-hitters and some decent pitching this year. But tonight’s Rays’ starter (their ace and last year’s Cy Young award winner) wasn’t as sharp as I expected, which the Yankees really exploited in the 5th inning with those runs scored and pushed him 101 pitches through just 6 innings. The foul ball off his pitching became more of a consistent sight than a legitimate hit — or for the pretty packed crowd for the Trop, it was the night of a ton of free souvenirs.
But there is good news on the horizon for the Yankees though. Derek Jeter’s rehab is completed, and he will rejoin the Yankees on their trip north of the border on Monday. With slides, running, fieldings, hits, walks, and even errors successfully accomplished and crossed off the (what has sadly become) standard rehab to-do list. Every time Jeter has returned to the Yankees (and his triumphant returns this year are starting to rival the new incarnations of a popular superhero franchise), there has been a spike in their wins. So perhaps, the next (and hopefully final) return of the Captain will give the Yankees that final push toward the postseason. And we all know that’s a step closer to the ultimate season goal — #28.
Also, Brett Gardner’s x-rays on his hand from yesterday’s hit by a pitch were negative and proved he might be a little sore and bruised but relatively unbroken. I’m sure this is also good news as he celebrated his 30th birthday today. So a happy birthday to Brett and we’re glad you’re okay (for the most part, at least)!