Before Wade Davis had recorded an out tonight, the Yanks had a 2-0 lead, and as Phil Hughes sailed through 5.2 innings, it seemed as though those early runs would help. But one bad pitch doomed the Yanks, and the King of the Comebacks could not mount much of anything tonight. They fell to Tampa Bay 3-2 as the Rays moved to within one of first place in the AL East.
A loud start followed by silence
After bashing the Indians for the last few nights, the Yanks’ offense seemingly picked up where it left off. Derek Jeter lined a single up the middle, and then Nick Swisher powered a home run — his 19th of the year — to right. The Yanks had their 2-0 lead, and Wade Davis would not, it seemed, be long for this game.
Despite throwing over 20 pitches in the first inning though, Davis stuck around while the Yankee bats did not. Davis allowed another hit in the first inning, and the Yanks eked out just one more of the game’s final eight innings. He didn’t overpower the Yanks; after striking Mark Teixeira, A-Rod and Jorge Posada in the first, he recorded just three more Ks. But he kept the Bombers off balance. He retired 11 Yankees via the fly ball, and a few nascent threats were quashed before the Yanks could do much with the baseball.
On a night like that, it’s tough to do much more than tip your cap to Davis. He made one mistake, and the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on anything else. The two runs held through the first 17 outs, but after 27, two would not be enough.
One pitch dooms Hughes
Tonight, Phil Hughes was the no-luck winner. Throwing his sharpest game since early July, Hughes held the powerful Rays at bay through 5.2 innings. He struck out six in his six innings of work, and Hughes had his sharp hook working him for him. But after running through the Rays for five innings, the third time through the lineup was deadly.
To lead off the sixth, catcher John Jaso singled back up the middle on a 1-2 pitch. Ahead in the count, Hughes threw a 92-mph cutter that didn’t cut after wasting a breaking ball in the dirt. Jaso went with it and delivered a single. After Carl Crawford flied out, Evan Longoria walked, and the Rays had something going.
Then, the Yankees made a costly choice. With Carlos Peña up, the team positioned Robinson Cano at double play depth instead of in the extreme shift as they usually do for Peña. The lefty slugger hit a bouncer in the hole, and Cano made a great play to nail Longoria at second. Because the team hadn’t put on the shift though, they couldn’t turn two. Had Cano been in the hole, Hughes would have escaped the jam with a 2-0 lead still in tact.
Instead, the right hander, nearing 100 pitches, had to get through Matt Joyce. It was Joyce though who got through the baseball. Hughes threw two fastballs to start the AB, and although both were outside, one was called a strike. After a curve ball out of the zone, Joyce swung over a nasty hook to even the count. Then, Hughes again went with this cutter, and again, it didn’t cut. This was a 93-mph pitch in Joyce’s wheelhouse, and the Yanks were losing. That was Hughes’ mistake. He didn’t go for a hook low and away; he didn’t turn to his two-seamer. As Hughes matures, he’ll learn that he must get beaten on his best pitches, and tonight, he let the lesser ones lead to a loss. It was one of the few bad pitches of the night, and with two runners on base, it was a costly one.
Jorge’s bad luck and slow legs
Poor Jorge. He is by far the slowest Yankee, and his legs cost the team dearly tonight. In the sixth inning, with Davis tiring and the Yanks trying to build on what was then a 2-0 lead, Posada came up with runners on 1st and 2nd and one man out. He hit a shot down the first base line that Carlos Peña speared. The Rays turned a 3-6-1 double play mostly on the speed — or lack thereof — of Posada.
Then in the 9th, Jorge’s legs struck again. This time he bounced a ball toward the second base hole, and Peña laid out to stop it. The ball ricocheted off of the Rays’ first baseman and bounced around for a second or turn. Peña gobbled it out, read War and Peace and made a throw to first that beat Jorge by a good two steps. He could have prolonged an inning, but in both cases, Carlos Peña made nice plays, while keeping in mind the runner, to save the game. Them’s the breaks when it comes to baseball.
Odds & Ends
Three cheers tonight for Joba Chamberlain. He came in with a 3-2 deficit and dominated the Rays for two innings. He threw 16 of 24 pitches for strikes and struck out three — including Evan Longoria. The mercurial reliever might yet have a role to play on on this team.
Alex Rodriguez is still sitting on 599 home runs. He seemed visibly frustrated tonight as he had a few good pitches to drive but came up empty each time up.
The bottom four hitters in the Yanks’ lineup went 0 for 11, and only Brett Gardner reached base. Having Colin Curtis DH remains a very curious choice even if Joe Girardi did like how he’s swinging the bat. I’d imagine the arrivals of Austin Kearns and Lance Berkman will spell the end for Juan Miranda, but the Yankees never seemed willing to give him a chance.
For whatever it’s worth, the Yankees fouled off 21 pitches from Wade Davis tonight. They just couldn’t do much with the hittable ones.
The chart and the boxes
I don’t like this WE chart.
Tampa Bay and the Yankees continue their AL East battle for the top spot tonight at 7 p.m. Javier Vazquez will face Matt Garza, who is coming off of a no-hitter against the Tigers. Right now, both teams are sitting in playoff spots, but I’d love to see the Yanks stick it to Garza in his first start against the Bombers this year.