There were 11,940 people at the Trop tonight to watch the Yankees take on the Rays. (I should note that 39,127 people showed up in the Bronx for yesterday’s game, and that was considered rather low attendance for a Sunday matinée.) Of those nearly 12,000 people, a good majority of them were Yankees fans. In fact, many people (non-fans, that is) noted that it seemed more like a Yankees home game that just happened to be played in the Tampa area. (The Rays do not play in Tampa, but across the bridge in St. Petersburg; the Yankees do play Spring Training in Tampa. That distinction may not mean much to you, but to people in the area, it’s a very big deal.) And the low attendance is an issue, but now that the Rays aren’t even close to play-off chances, Tampa area sports fans are gearing up to watch their football team lose another miserable season and just hold on for hockey in a few weeks.
Anyway, it was actually quite a pitchers duel for the majority of the game with both starters going deep into the game and throwing some really good outings. And neither pitcher ended up being the pitcher on record for either the win or loss, each drawing a no-decision. Let me get this out of the way now: the Rays have one thing going for them — their starting rotation. But get into their bullpen, and you have a chance to do something.
CC Sabathia started tonight’s game for the Yankees — 111 pitches 6.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and no runs, and striking out 6 batters. Even the few times he was in a couple of jams, his pitching and the defense was right behind him to keep the game scoreless. Though for some reason, most of the defensive players (on both teams) had the hardest time keeping their hands on the ball (causing 3 errors for the Yankees, but oddly none for the Rays).
Justin Wilson finished off the 7th and threw into the 8th inning. He got into his own jam when a 1-out single scored on a 2-out double. It was time for a change, so the Yankees went with Caleb Cotham, who struck out his only batter and put him on the line for the win, should they even pull it off. (Spoiler alert: they did!)
The Yankees pushed the Rays’ starter out in the 8th inning, who allowed just 1 hit his entire game (Beltran’s single in the 8th). And after a quick strikeout ended the 8th, the Yankees faced a new pitcher in the 9th (luckily for them). After a lead-off single was blown by a ground into a double play, the Yankees were staring at just 1 out away from losing tonight’s game. But then Gardner walked, stole 2nd on defensive indifference, and scored easily on Alex Rodriguez’s big double to tie up the game. The Rays made the decision to intentionally walk McCann and Rodriguez was pinch-run by Young.
So Slade Heathcott (recently back on the roster after a stint on the DL) stepped up to the plate, and liking the first pitch, firmly planted it over the left field wall for a 3-run home run, breaking the tie, setting the Yankees up for the win, and forcing the Rays to make a pitching change. So with the Yankees up by 3 runs, it was Andrew Miller to the mound for a 14-pitch, 3 strikeout near-perfect outing to earn him his 33rd save this season.
Final score: 4-1 Yankees
Every year, each team nominates a player that best exemplifies the kind of life the late Roberto Clemente lived both on and off the field — excellence in playing paired with huge impacts on the community at large. This year’s Yankee nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award is Mark Teixeira. Teixeira, who is currently out for the season, is coming off one of his best year’s as a player in recent years, but it is his philanthropic ventures that earn him some good will — most recently with the Harlem RBI group, a non-profit organization that helps local communities develop positive environments for little league sports teams. A well-deserved recognition for him.