All those local fans that didn’t come last night certainly showed up this afternoon, “packing out” the Trop at 20,188. (Again, a sell-out is considered about 31,000, while full capacity is about 40,000.) But then again, Rays fans had something to cheer about yesterday.
I should clarify that it wasn’t like the Rays actually played a good game. It’s just that the Yankees’ pitching wasn’t good for most of the game. Let me explain… no, let me sum up… (and if you read that last line with an accent, you are my favorite person today.)
Michael Pineda got the nod to start today and might have ultimately wished he’d been skipped in this go-around. He threw 74 pitches in just shy of 4 innings, gave up 9 hits and 6 runs, and struck out just 3 Rays batters. It just wasn’t good from start to finish for Pineda today.
Pineda hit his first batter in the 1st inning, and a double moved 2 runners into scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the first run, a single put runners in the corners, and another single scored another run. A little grounder got the out at 2nd and split the runners to the corners again, so that yet another single scored the third run of the inning for the Rays. A 2-out triple in the 2nd was posed to score, but did so easily on a big 2-run home run. And just like that the Rays were up 5 runs in just the 2nd inning.
A lead-off double in the 4th scored on a 2-out single and that is what ended Pineda’s afternoon. Not exactly the way to lower an already too-high ERA, but exactly the way to earn his 6th loss of the season so far.
Nick Goody came on and got the final out of the 4th, but then struggled in the 5th inning with his two lead-off batters getting a double and a walk. So it was onto Luis Cessa, who easily did the best of all 3 Yankee pitchers today, but it was a shaky 4-inning outing at times. Still in that 5th inning, Cessa got 2 fly outs which moved the runners (from Goody) up to scoring position. Not that it was necessary as a 3-run home run into the right field seats sealed the Rays’ win at that point. Cessa kept the Rays scoreless beyond this, which is what gave him the best outing of all the pitchers.
The Yankees weren’t exactly idle either, and without those first 2 innings, the Yankees actually could have won this one. While still being trounced by the Rays’ offense taking advantage of weaker pitching, Carlos Beltran led-off the 4th with a solo home run that just barely eked to the right of the left field foul pole. This was also Beltran’s 2500th career hit. (Milestone alert!)
Then in the 7th, with 1 out, the Yankees made a move on the tiring Rays starter. Headley singled and Gregorius walked, which allowed Headley to score on Austin Romine’s single. Ellsbury’s single then loaded the bases. Then after a strikeout, the Rays made a pitching change, taking their starter out of the game after 111 pitches. Which worked out pretty well initially as Ronald Torreyes worked a walk to walk in Gregorius. But a strikeout with the bases loaded ended those rally hopes.
But the chipping away at the Rays’ big lead began, and the Yankees being the Yankees weren’t exactly conceding just yet. In the 8th, they tried the small ball efforts once again. With 1 out and Ackley and Headley on base with singles, Didi Gregorius’ single scored Ackley, and Romine’s single again scored Headley.
So the Rays once again changed pitchers. This time, it worked out for the Rays, and the Yankees were shut down for the rest of the game. All 5 outs of it.
Final score: 9-5 Rays
Look, I’ve watched a lot of baseball in my lifetime. And I’ve seen games where it’s clear that there is a truly dominant team. Sometimes it’s a complete fluke — the team normally is terrible, but all the stars align for this one moment when the pitching and the offense is just perfect and on point. Sometimes it’s because this is a really good team, and they are simply showing why we will probably watch them play October baseball.
This was not one of those games. For either team. I don’t care how many runs you score. High stats level in pitching on both sides certainly show that neither team was exactly in their prime today. The Yankees gave up 13 hits, the Rays 12; the Yankees gave up 2 walks, the Rays 4; the Yankees struck out 6 batters, the Rays 10.
To quote Girardi, “It’s just not what you want.” No, it really isn’t.