Yankees 5, Rays 3
Tonight was a good night for souvenir’s in the rightfield bleachers in Yankee Stadium.
Four New Yankees missiles landed there Monday night as the Yankees blasted the Tampa Bay Rays and won the rubber game of the three-game set. They also extended their lead over the idle Boston Red Sox in the American League East to a full game.
The Yankees fly into Boston to defend that lead with a three-game set in Fenway Park that is scheduled to end on Thursday.
But Monday, it was all about the longball. No bunts, no steals and none of that old-fashioned “Little Ball.” The Yankees used the home run to frustrate Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine. And if you were late getting to your seat you missed the first shot of the night in the first inning.
Sonnanstine retired Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon on fly balls. But Mark Teixeira decided to check and see if those outfielders could catch a ball in the second deck down the rightfield line. Mark, the answer is no.
Teixeira picked on a 1-1 Sonnanstine cutter that did not cut and he deposited it into the comfortable Bronx night air. The long home run gave Teixeira 18 on the season and it gave him the lead in the AL in that category. Little did Sonnanstine know at the time but the rightfield blasts would become “the pattern” for the evening.
In the second inning, Robinson Cano singled to left. After two outs, Nick Swisher, on the same 1-1 count, blasted another off-target cutter his 12th home run of the season on a line drive to right-center. Yankees 3, Rays 0 and Sonnanstine was left scratching his head.
His counterpart Andy Pettitte, was a bit more careful. Pettitte walked a high-wire all night, throwing a lot of pitches on the corners and the dirt and walking those who did not bite. The strategy seemed to pay off until the fourth inning.
In the fourth second baseman Ben Zobrist reached on an Alex Rodriguez fielding error and took second on a wild pitch. He made it to third on DH Joe Dillon’s flyout to right. Backup catcher Michel Hernandez then plated the Rays first run on a single up the middle. Hernandez then scored when Pettitte made his only huge mistake of the evening.
After getting the Rays on six strikeouts in the first three innings using off-speed sliders in the dirt, Pettitte tried to sneak a 3-2 fastball past rightfielder Gabe Kapler. But Kapler was not fooled and lined the pitch in the leftfield stands for his first home run of the season. The journeyman outfielder was hitting just .169 entering the game.
The two-run shot tied the game at 3.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth inning. After one out, Johnny Damon took yet another 1-1 pitch and sent it five rows deep in right for his 12th home run — most of those have landed in the newly coined “Damon’s Deck” in right.
Pettitte, meanwhile, was maxed out after six innings at 104 pitches. He gave up five hits and walked three batters and finished with seven K’s. It was not his sharpest effort but the veteran southpaw wriggled off more hooks than Charlie the Tuna to hand the slim one-run lead over the bullpen.
Monday also was the 2009 bullpen debut of Phil Hughes, who lost his starting spot to Chien-Ming Wang last week. Hughes showed he might actually be a weapon out there in his one inning of work. He retired B.J. Upton on a groundout to third, Carl Crawford on a bouncer back to the mound and struck out star third baseman Evan Longoria on a 3-2 fastball. Three outs all in a tidy 11-pitch outing.
The Yankees just might have found their elusive “bridge to Mariano Rivera.” A future one anyway.
Phil Coke pitched a scoreless eighth and left the game to Mariano Rivera.
However, Sonnanstine was still dealing for the bullpen weary Rays in the bottom of the eighth because he had only thrown 91 pitches. Other than the home runs, Sonnastine had only given up Cano’s single in second and an infield single to Nick Swisher in the seventh.
As I said, though, the theme of the night was blasts to rightfield and Jeter greeted the righthander with one last blast on a line to rightfield to extend the lead to two runs. It also was the last pitch for Sonnastine. Manager Joe Maddon pulled him and two Rays relievers finished the inning without any further damage.
That left the ninth for Rivera. He blazed a quick path by getting Kapler on a infield bouncer, retired Matt Joyce on fly to center and struck out Upton on a high inside cutter for his 14th save and gave the Yankees the series victory 2-1 over the Rays.
The Rays, who were riding into town on a hot streak, ended up leaving under .500 at 29-30 and their second straight loss pushed them 6 games back in fourth place in the division. Sonnanstine did receive one slight bit of good news. Despite giving up five earned runs he lowered his ERA to 7.00 from 7.07.
But his mistakes got magnified when the Yankees took him yard four times. Bombs away in the Bronx led to another Yankees victory. On to Boston!
Because I live in Florida I tuned into the Fox Sports cable broadcast of this game with Rays play-by-play man DeWayne Staats and color commentator Kevin Kennedy. In fact. because the games were broadcast in HD I watched their telecast for all three games. (YES Network’s broadcast here was blacked out Saturday anyway).
I am used to Fox Sports allowing their announcers to be “homers.” for their team. I mean I have suffered through the Los Angels Angels saddle shoes and pom-pom pair of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler for years until they were finally canned after the 2007 season.
But even their shameless shilling for the Angels could not rival the bias of Staats and Kennedy this weekend. Any pitch that a Rays pitcher that was within the same zip code of the strike zone was “questionable” if it was dared called a ball. Every close call on the bases that went against them was “missed” by the umpires.
But they really hit rock bottom on Monday night after Andy Sonnanstine surrendered his fourth home run of the night to right field to Derek Jeter. Kennedy called the home run “a joke.” Staats later added that the Yankees will have “to do something” because of how cheap the home run was in the new Yankee Stadium.
What the broadcasters failed to mention is that the Yankees held a 4-3 lead before Jeter homered. So it really mattered little in terms of the result of the 5-3 Rays defeat. But there is one more point that needs to be made.
Sonnanstine’s first two gopher balls to Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher were not cheapies that barely cleared the first row on a high fly that got blown into the seats. Both were tagged and would have been home runs in any park.
Jeter’s shot was a line drive that landed at the back of the lower section in right, hardly a cheap home run. It was hit hard and was easily traveling out.
The only home run to question might have been Damon’s. It landed about five rows in and may not have been a home run in some parks. But they did not question Damon’s blast at the time. They only mentioned it after Jeter’s home run made it look like the team that signs their paychecks was going to lose. Mariano Rivera was coming into the ninth inning with a two-run lead and it did not look good for the Rays at that point.
So Kennedy just vented and later even had the gall to say it had nothing to do with the result of the game. I beg to differ. I assure you if Carlos Pena of the Rays or Carl Crawford had pop flied a few into the stands this weekend and it won the Rays a few games it would not have been mentioned.
How do I know?
I have caught Staats’ act before. Many times. Earlier this season Staats questioned an umpires call of a strike on a Rays batter that was clearly on the plate. It was close. But it was a good pitch. He railed and railed about it. The very next inning a Rays pitcher got a strike call in the very same spot on a Yankees batter. Staats said nothing.
Some years ago Staats even showed more lack of class. On a close play at first base, a Yankees batter was ruled safe. He then went on to rail against the umpires by saying that it wasn’t enough that the Yankees buy all the best players they want but that George Steinbrenner and his team did not need any help from the umpires too. Perhaps the last-place and perennial loser Rays should have been the benefit of every call in Staats’ mind.
No matter how unprofessional a comment like that is, Staats and Kennedy will remain where they are. They never hear from the network and they never hear from Major League Baseball. They just keep spouting off venom and hate when their team loses because it never can be that the opposition could be the better team that night.
It ALWAYS has to be another reason. Kennedy said about a Rays pitcher who did not get a strike call: “I feel sorry for this kid because here he is pitching a great game and the umpire makes a bad call like that.”
And tonight. Why not give credit to Andy Pettitte for pitching well enough not to allow a home run to rightfield. Or perhaps blame the Rays for not taking advantage of the so-called cheap nature of balls hit to right. Why is the park a joke?
I just wonder why the YES Network, NESN, Vin Scully and radio legends like Bob Uecker and Jack Buck could play their broadcast right down the middle and hacks like Staats and Kennedy can’t. Would it harm the game any? Why shill so shamelessly?
It makes me want to vomit. One of these days this kind of broadcasting is going to spark an ugly on-field incident and I would hate to see how they could justify that.
You two should be ashamed of yourselves. By the way, as announcers you stink worse than any umpire I have even seen. I do not have to check with the first base umpire to make that call.