It’s been a scary hot week in the Tampa Bay area, setting record high temperatures and coupled with the famous Florida humidity. It may be the only reason why I’m okay with the Rays’s domed stadium in St. Petersburg. Okay, and the fact that about an hour before first pitch, there was a deluge that flooded many streets around the area because it was pretty rainy through the night, still sprinkling a bit at the final out actually. So rain and extreme heat = me okay with a domed stadium.
I still don’t like the artificial turf, but that’s a whole different issue for a whole different blog post. (Which will probably comes up later this weekend, if I’m being honest.)
Anyway, the Yankees started their weekend series against the Rays by sending Luis Severino to the mound to start the game. And Severino actually had a strong outing, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks, but only 1 run, and striking out 7 Rays’ batters. Severino gave up lead-off single in the 1st inning, but then he was out on a fielder’s choice at 2nd (failed double play #1). Then that guy was out on another fielder’s choice out at 2nd (failed double play #2). But a double scored the baserunner to get the Rays on the board.
Severino and his defense spent the rest of his tenure keeping the Rays to that lone run. Jonathan Holder came on in the 6th and continued his strong outings, keeping Severino’s momentum going in his 13 pitches.
But Adam Warren struggled his way through the first part of the 7th inning, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive singles before a sacrifice fly scored a run and moved the rest of the runners to scoring position. After a strikeout, it was on to Chasen Shreve. But his first batter, a pinch-hitter doubled and scored the 2 runners before Shreve got the final out of the 7th inning to halt their rally.
However, the unfortunate turn fell to Tyler Clippard in the 8th, who got all 3 of his outs as strikeouts. It’s what happened in between that was problematic. Strikeout #1, a walk, strikeout #2, a walk, a single (to the guy who racked up 4 hits of Yankee pitchers tonight) scored the all-important run), and then came strikeout #3 (a batter too late).
Now, the Yankees were actually the first ones on the board. In the 1st, Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and ended up at 3rd on Holliday’s double before scoring on Starlin Castro’s ground out. With the game tied in the 3rd, Gardner led-off with a single, ending up at 2nd on a throwing error, and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Like I said before, the Yankees spent most of the game defending their slim lead after Severino’s pretty stellar start.
So when the Rays jumped ahead at the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees came right back in the top of the 8th to rally. The Rays played a bit of bullpen bingo sending in a 3 new relievers in this inning alone. Under pitcher #1 of the inning, Gardner led-off with a walk, and 1 out later, it was on to pitcher #2. Matt Holliday tied things up in one swing with a nice 2-run home run into the 2nd row of the right field seats. After Castro singled, it was time for pitcher #3 who got Judge to hit into a double play to end the rally.
But then after the Rays came back in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie, the Yankees couldn’t find another rally against the Rays’ closer, who now has 11 saves so far this season, which says a lot about him as the Rays are 22 wins-22 losses. This means he’s saved half of the winning games for the Rays. A completely inconsequential statistic for a Yankees fan. But as they play them a lot, it’s good to know your opponent for their strengths and weaknesses.
Like the Rays should know that they worked up 13 strikeouts off Yankee pitchers tonight. (Remember, 7 of those were Severino’s.) So, yeah, I’d call that a strength.
Final score: 5-4 Rays
Noticeably absent in the visitor’s dugout tonight was Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who missed tonight’s game to be back in New York to see his oldest daughter graduate high school today. (Congratulations, Serena!) In his stead, bench coach Rob Thomson took on the substitute managerial role. Thomson has filled in a few times when Girardi was sick or was briefly suspended, but his record (after tonight’s game) is 1 win-3 losses.
And in roster rehab news: 1st baseman Tyler Austin was scheduled to begin his rehab games with the Tampa Yankees tonight. But like I said at the beginning, it was a bit soggy, and as Steinbrenner Field is an open-air stadium, the game was postponed until tomorrow to be the first game of doubleheader. Austin, you may remember, took a foul ball off his foot during live batting practice the day before position players reported to camp for Spring Training. He’s been healing and working his way back into pinstripes, anxious to find his place on the team again.
Now, with Bird still struggling with his own injury (a bruised bone that is just not healing right), Carter’s been filling quite well, but he was never meant to be the everyday 1st baseman for the Yankees. So Austin could be the key player to find that consistency as Bird works his way though his own healing and rehab stints. But let’s be honest, I think we’d rather see them all healthy and whole again, competing for that roster spot, than banged up and bruised.