Tampa finished off their mini two-game sweep of the Yanks last night in the Bronx, beating the Yankees 8-6. Yankees starter Andy Pettitte had nothing, and the Rays jump on him for three runs in the top of the first to give themselves a 3-0 lead before the Yanks got to swing the bat. The big blow of the inning was a two-run homer off the bat of Ben Zobrist, his first of the season.
The Yanks would get back in the game. Juan Miranda hit his second homer of the season, a two-run shot off James Shields in the second to cut the Rays lead to one. They would then tie it in the bottom of the third, but the story of that inning was the runners they left on base, not the one that scored.
Randy Winn singled to start the inning and Derek Jeter reached on a bunt single to put two on with nobody out. Brett Gardner followed with a bunt single of his own, and on the play Shields threw the ball past first baseman Carlos Pena and into right field allowing a run to score and Gardner and Jeter to move up to second and third. So the Yanks had two runners in scoring position with nobody out for their 3-4-5 hitters.
Yesterday, I mentioned that since this team is struggling they were going to need guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to step up and carry the load. Well, tonight they came up short.
Tex grounded back to the mound for the first out, then Shields struck out A-Rod and Robinson Cano to end the inning and strand the runners. I know Tampa would go on to score eight runs in the game, but to me this is where the Yankees lost the game.
While the Yankees were clawing their way back into the game, Pettitte settled down and held the Rays off the scoreboard in the second and third. But in the fourth, he allowed a solo homer to B.J. Upton and the Rays had regained the lead.
Thanks to a little bit of luck, the Yanks would tie it in the bottom half of the inning. With one out Miranda hit a fly ball to center, normally nothing more than a routine flyout. But Upton lost the ball off the bat, and it would fall in for a triple. He would then score on a Francisco Cervelli sac fly.
Tampa broke the tie for good with two more runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to extend their lead to 7-4.
One thing that bothered me tonight was Joe Girardi sending Pettitte out for the sixth. Pettitte was already at 101 pitches, and had struggled for pretty much the entire night. I know the Yankees bullpen has been awful lately, but Pettitte was clearly done and the Yankees should have felt lucky they could get five out of him with the Rays only winning by two. The first batter he faced in the inning was Carlos Pena, and he took the second pitch he saw and sent it into the seats in right for the Rays third homer of the night of Andy. On the night, Pettitte allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits, walked two, and struck out three in his first loss of the year. After the homer Girardi finally went to the bullpen and called on David Robertson.
Robertson, along with Miranda and Jeter's three hits, was one of the bright spots of the game. In two perfect inning he struck out four and looked better than he has all year. Let's all hope this is a sign that he's regaining his 2009 form, because that would be just the sort of boost this bullpen needs.
On the other hand, Chan Ho Park continues to struggle. He allowed a run in the eighth, when Pena smacked his second solo homer of the game.
Like last night, the Yankees scored a couple runs in the ninth to make it interesting, but fell two runs short. Jeter hit a two-run double with two out, which did bring the tying run to the plate, but Gardner grounded out to third and the game was over.
Is it time to panic? The Yankees are now five games out and if it wasn't for a miracle comeback against Jonathan Papelbon the Yankees would have lost all four to the Red Sox and Rays. Even more unsettling is that the Toronto Blue Jays are just a game behind the Yanks for second place in the division, and Boston is just 3.5 back. In this division the Yankees cannot afford to piss away games like this, and must turn things around quickly.
Hopefully the turnaround starts against the last-place Mets as they head to Citi Field to begin Interleague play. Javier Vazquez will start the opener for the Yanks, with Hisanori Takahashi starting for the Mets. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. and the game will be on YES.