It was another hard fought battle at the Trop as the Yanks and Rays played to their third straight one-run game, but for the second time in three games the Yankees came up short.
After some time off to rest that tired arm, Phil Hughes returned to the mound tonight and besides two at-bats to Dan Johnson, pitched very well. In 6.2 innings, Hughes allowed four runs on six hits, struck out five, and did not walk a batter. It was the first time since July 9th, the right-hander lasted more than six innings. Those two at-bats by Johnson led to all four runs, a two-run homer in 5th and then another two innings later.
Now I know Matt Joyce and Johnson aren't exactly your prototypical scary left-handers, but after the homer in the 5th, I have to wonder why Girardi didn't call on a lefty (isn't that why they have two now?) to at least take care of the Johnson in the 7th with a one-run lead, especially after Joyce had just singled. Maybe he wanted to show Hughes that he has confidence in him, which is fine, it's just a shame he wasn't trying to actually win the game.
Joba Chamberlain would eventually come into the game for Hughes and get out of the inning, but it was too little too late.
Another thing that may have cost the Yankees the game was when they blew a golden opportunity to jump out to a big lead in the first. With one out the Yanks loaded the bases and then took a 1-0 lead on Robinson Cano's RBI single, but Rays starter James Shields got Lance Berkman to bang into an inning ending doubleplay and the Yanks had to settle for just that one run.
That would be their only run until the top of the 7th when they would score two on a Curtis Granderson two-run homer off Rays reliever Chad Qualls and regain a one-run lead. But as you know, Johnson erased that lead one-run later and the Rays pen took care of the rest. The Yankees have now lost 8 of 10 and are back in 2nd place, a place they deserve to be in after playing as poorly as they have recently. Boston also won, there fourth in a row, so guess who's just six games back in the wild card race.
The 2nd place Yankees now travel to Baltimore for a three-game series before they return home next week for seven games against these Rays and the Red Sox. A.J. Burnett will start the opener on Friday against Baltimore's Kevin Millwood. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. and the game will be on YES.