Well before that first pitch was thrown yesterday I knew my Sunday was going to be ruined. All I needed to do was take a look at the lineup Joe Girardi penciled in. For some reason, he felt it was a good decision to manage the game as if it was the final week in September and the division was already wrapped up. Too bad it's August, and they were just two games up at the time.
I can understand sitting Alex Rodriguez. Trying to hit 600 has gotten into his head, and he could probably have used the day off. (A-Rod would eventually get in the game and go 0-for-2) But did Girardi really need to make three moves that weakened the team? Did Lance Berkman really need to play first base, and did Austin Kearns really need to play at all?
The move to start Berkman at first proved to be the most costly. He failed to reach a blooper with two out in the second that led to Tampa's first run. Then, with nobody out in the third, he couldn't handle a throw by Robinson Cano, and the Rays followed that leadoff single with two more hits to increase their lead to 3-0. Berkman did make a nice play to save two runs in the fourth, but Mark Teixeira not only makes that play, but the two before it as well.
Some blame must go to CC Sabathia, after all he was the one who allowed those other two hits in the third. He pitched a decent game, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks over 6.2 inning. But a decent performance was all the Yankees got from all three of their starters this weekend, none of the whom rose to the occasion the way Rays starter, James Shields, did today.
In the end, those mistakes by Girardi might not have mattered, because Shields was absolutely dominating over seven innings. Four hits and a walk was all the Yankees could do against the right-hander, who also fanned 11 on the day. He had the changeup working and the Yankees, for the most part, had no chance. After the 7th, Tampa's pen took care of the rest.
The Yankees best chance came in the second when Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out. But Shields struck out Curtis Granderson and then Kearns popped out to short to end the threat.
Kerry Wood made his Yankee debut and showed that he still has the stuff, but not necessarily the command needed to be a top-tier reliever. In one+ innings of work, Wood allowed a single, struck out three, and walked two. If he can figure out a way to throw strikes consistently the Yankees may have a guy that can really help them down the stretch. If he can't, well then all he's going to do is give Joe Girardi a headache.
So the Yankees now head home up just one game in the standings with a pretty tough homestand coming up. It begins with a three-game set against the Jays starting tomorrow. A.J. Burnett will start the opener, with Brandon Morrow going for the Jays. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m., and the game will be on YES.