The New York Yankees welcomed the Tampa Bay Rays to the Bronx over the weekend looking to put behind them a stretch of baseball where they had lost three games in a row and seven of their last eight. The team had been mired in a horrendous slump at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position. To improve on this, the Yankees would have to do so against three straight left handed starters, including Blake Snell, the Rays top prospect and Minor League Baseball’s Pitcher of the Year in 2015.
Sometimes you just gotta steal one
The Yankees would send CC Sabathia to the mound on Friday night with the hope of getting some length out of a starting pitcher. The bullpen has been taxed of late and with the lack of offense, has taken its toll. The Rays would jump out first on a two-run double from Logan Forsythe. That lead did not last long as Brian McCann launched his third home run of the season, scoring Mark Teixeira who had singled ahead on him. The Rays would retake the lead in the fourth on a Brandon Guyer run-scoring single. Aaron Hicks would have to leave the game after attempting to make a diving catch of Guyer’s line drive with a sore shoulder. The Yankees were hoping to get him going with some regular at bats against the myriad of lefties the team would face in upcoming games.
Sabathia’s night would end in the fifth as Joe Girardi‘s leash would be very short on this evening. Ivan Nova came in with two on and two out to strikeout Curt Casali and end the threat. Nova would be very sharp in relief with 2.1 innings of no-hit baseball with two strikeouts. Sabathia’s unimpressive line ended after 4.2 innings pitched and giving up three runs on nine hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The play of the night and possibly the season thus far occurred in the bottom of the fifth as Jacoby Ellsbury stunned everyone with a two out steal of home to tie the game at three. Ellsbury has been heating up as of late and he must have been really feeling it on this night. The straight steal of home was the first since Derek Jeter stole home on May 1, 2001 against the Baltimore Orioles.
McCann and Teixeira would team up to give the Yankees the lead in the sixth and the bullpen would have no trouble holding on to the lead. Ellsbury would cap things off with a two-run double to deep right and the Yankees would take the game 6-3. The offense did enough on this night to offset the lack of a quality start from Sabathia.
Saturday’s game would feature Masahiro Tanaka against the Rays highly touted prospect Snell. Snell showed some signs of being unnerved in the first inning as a walk, single, and a wild pitch plated the first run of the afternoon for the Yankees. He would settle down after that and end up going 5 innings, giving up 2 hits and striking out 6.
Tanaka pitched well in the early going, facing the minimum through three innings. The Rays would tie things in the fourth on a pair of doubles from Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson. Kevin Kiermaier would give Tampa Bay the lead in the fifth with a solo home run off the right field foul pole. In the end, Tanaka would give the Yankees 7 innings of solid baseball, giving up just the 2 runs while striking out 7. Definitely good enough to win on most days, but that has been the story of quite a few games recently.
In the seventh, the Yankees would rally off of the Rays bullpen. Brett Gardner would hit a liner up the middle with the bases loaded. Rays pitcher Xavier Cedeno would get his glove on it to keep the ball in the infield and only allow the one run to score. Such is the luck when things are sputtering offensively.
Betances and Miller would do their thing in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. The possibility of extra innings was looming after the first two Yankee batters went quietly in the bottom of the ninth. But, Gardner would prove to be the hero of the day as he yanked a fastball from Erasmo Ramirez into the right field seats for a walk off home run. The final score of 3-2 would be punctuated by a great start from Tanaka and the heroics from Gardner as the Yankees took advantage of the Rays bullpen and a couple of defensive miscues to win back to back games.
Two steps forward, one step back
Going into Sunday afternoon’s game looking for a sweep, Yankee fans were forced to put their brooms away early. Michael Pineda would face off against Drew Smyly. Pineda would get two quick outs in the top of the first, but would find trouble from there.
One strike from getting out of the inning unscathed, Pineda served up a double to Evan Longoria and a home run to Dickerson. From there, a single, double, and then a home run off the bat of Steven Souza, Jr gave the Rays a 5-0 lead. Pineda would manage to make it through five innings, but would also give up home runs to Steve Pearce and a second to Souza. His line of 5IP, 10H, 7ER, 1BB, and 9 Ks was highlighted by the four home runs given up to a fairly light hitting team.
The Yankees lone run would come courtesy of an Alex Rodriguez RBI double that just missed being a home run. The team was 1-7 with runners in scoring position (there’s that again) with McCann striking out three times. To make matters worse, ARod would leave the game in the sixth inning with a strained oblique. Not much to like here today. No offense and a performance from Pineda that everyone would just as soon put behind them quickly.
The Yankees embark on a 9-game road against Texas, Boston, and Baltimore looking for consistency in pretty much all aspects of the game except maybe the bullpen. There were some signs of life over the weekend, but the fact is that the road trip will be against teams that are flat out playing better baseball than they are right now and the starting rotation outside of Tanaka is a mess.