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Running out of time: Yankees vs. Rays series recap

After a weekend of ugly losses to the Red Sox had seemingly ended their improbable playoff run, the Yankees began their last road trip of the 2016 season hoping to start a win streak to finish off the season.  While hopes of a playoff spot are slim and almost none, winning games could still make things interesting and if nothing else, play the role of spoiler for one of the teams ahead in the standings.

Snapping a losing streak

Michael Pineda got the start in the opener and was typical Michael Pineda.  Did you expect anything else?  Looking dominant at times, he struck out 11 in 5.1 innings of work.  He also needed 98 pitches to get through those 5.1 innings.  He certainly isn’t the model of efficiency, eh?  Pineda gave up two runs in the third with a rally that started with two outs, of course.  A pair of singles set up a two out, two strike triple from Brad Miller to put the Rays up 2-0.

The offense would begin its rally with a solo home run from Mark Teixeira.  In the seventh, Brett Gardner would tie things with an RBI single before Gary Sanchez would put the #IamGary stamp on the game with this long bomb.

No words can describe what he has done the final two months of the season, so i’ll leave it to you just to watch the clip over and over.

The 5-2 lead would be enough as the bullpen would pitch 3.2 innings of one run baseball with a rested Dellin Betances getting the final three outs for his 12th save.  Five Yankee pitches combined for 16 strikeouts in the 5-3 victory.  Every starting position player except Donovan Solano had at least one hit.  The Orioles lost which puts the Yankees 3 games back of the second wildcard.  Not many games left and there are a lot of teams to climb over to get to that second spot, but the Yankees and Orioles do finish the season with a three game set at Yankee Stadium.  I’m just sayin’……..

Still battling

The bats were alive early and often for the Yankees on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.  RBI singles from Sanchez, McCann, and Ronald Torreyes staked the Bombers to a quick 3-0 lead after an inning.  Sanchez would punctuate a 4 run second inning with his 18th home run of the season.  Masahiro Tanaka had a seven run lead almost before he had done any work at all.

Normally, this would be all Tanaka would need.  Were it not for a bizarre bottom of the third, it could have been cruise control.  Instead, Tanaka would allow four solo home runs in the inning, three of them back-to-back-to-back.  A couple of pitches left up in the zone and the Rays were swatting them out like flies.  What was a laugher quickly turned into a contest as the Rays pulled within 7-4.  Tanaka would rebound to keep the game from turning into a double digit slugfest.  He would retire 10 of the final 12 batters he would face and would manage to finish 6.0 innings, giving up just the four runs while striking out 5.

Sanchez would pad the lead with a solo home run in the sixth, his 19th in just 45 career games which is a new MLB record.  The previous record was 51 games by Wally Berger with the 1930 Boston Braves.  Truly amazing and he is such a showstopper right now.

The bullpen held their own with three innings of one hit baseball, the only blemish being Brad Miller’s second home run of the game off of Adam Warren.  With Betances warming in the bullpen, the Yankees tacked on three more runs in the top half of the ninth, the final blow from a two-run homer from Donovan Solano to set the final margin at 11-5.

Sanchez was 3-for-5 with his two home runs to raise his line on the season to .337/.410/.747 and with each passing day it gets harder to argue against consideration for Rookie of the Year.  McCann also collected four hits, Gardner and Mason Williams had two, and Solano three as every Yankee starting position had at least one hit except Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Blue Jays and Orioles both lost which moves the Yankees to within 2.5 games of the second wildcard.  The Tigers, Astros, and Mariners are also in the hunt and are just in front of the Yankees.

Falling short

The Yankees rolled in the series finale looking for a sweep of the Rays to keep their slim playoff chances alive.  Luis Cessa pulled his weight with 6.0 innings of 2 run baseball, but the offense was unable to come up with the big hit.  He gave up the obligatory first inning run, but only allowed a solo home run from Brad Miller after that.  Cessa has pitched to a 3.83 ERA in games that he has started this season and hopefully can build off of that going into the 2017 campaign.

As mentioned, the Yankee offense had baserunners everywhere, but couldn’t chase anyone home.  0-for-8 with runners in scoring position with 11 left on base.  Opportunity lost.  Ballgame lost.  Playoff hopes…..probably lost.  The Rays figured out when to just walk Sanchez and the rest of the lineup couldn’t pick them up.  Story of the year for this offense.  Sweeps are not easy, but it seems that the Yankees have had squandered quite a few opportunities like this, especially against the Rays.

Cessa was impressive and Severino pitched 2.0 innings in relief to continue his domination out of the bullpen.  The Tigers jumped over the Orioles into the second wildcard position with the Yankees 3.0 games back.  Not sure if winning the final ten games would get the job done or not, but a sweep of the Jays this weekend would at least make things interesting heading into the final week of the season.  Hey, at least there is somewhat meaningful baseball being played right now.  Looking back at where things were in July, this has been fun and unexpected.