YANKEES 4, RAYS 1
With all Yankee Stadium eyes on CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter and their quests for personal marks on Monday afternoon, both were upstaged by an eighth-inning rally.
The Yankees picked up the 4-1 victory in the first game of a day-night doubleheader over the Tampa Bay Rays, all right. But neither Sabathia or Jeter got their milestones.
Sabathia, seeking to become the major leagues’ first 17-game winner, dueled Matt Garza to a 1-1 tie after seven innings. Other than an opposite-field home run he surrendered to Evan Longoria in the second inning, Sabathia was nearly flawless again.
Sabathia pitched seven innings, gave up three hits and four walks and fanned 10 batters.
Meanwhile, Jeter’s quest for four hits to pass Lou Gehrig on the Yankees all-time hits list with 2,721 would have to wait also. Jeter was stuck at 2,718 after going 0 for 4 against Garza, who also pitched seven innings.
Garza gave up five hits and one walk and struck out seven.
But the Yankees went to an old tried and true strategy that has paid dividends for them this season. They simply waited until Garza left the game after having thrown 120 pitches and took their chances with the Rays’ bullpen.
Lance Cormier (2-2) opened the eighth inning by walking Nick Swisher. Mark Teixeira then ripped a sharp line drive single to right and Gabe Kapler’s throw to third base hit the sliding Swisher and allowed Teixeira to take second. Swisher chose to try for third when he saw Kapler bobble the ball.
“I think it was Swisher’s hard turn, once Kapler made the mistake,” manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. “To me that’s what stands out. You don’t assume that they’re going to catch the ball or field it cleanly. Swish did not and took advantage of their little miscue, and that was another miscue in the game.”
Alex Rodriguez was intentionally walked to bring up Robinson Cano with the bases loaded, not a situation Cano has excelled at throughout his career. But Cano lofted a high and deep drive to center to score Jerry Hairston Jr., who was inserted as a pinch-runner for Swisher, to score the tie-breaking run.
Rays manager Joe Maddon called on submarine right-hander Chad Bradford to end the threat, but Jorge Posada singled in Teixeira and Eric Hinske lofted a sacrifice fly to right to score Rodriguez to make the score 4-1.
Phil Hughes (6-3) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up the win. Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and recorded his 39th save of the season in 40 chances.
Rivera was pitching for the first time since last Tuesday due to soreness in his left groin. He said he felt good and said the groin was no trouble at all.
“I felt good,” Rivera said to MLB.com. “First batter, I was a little tentative. After that, just went out there and did my job.”
Two defensive plays kept the Rays at bay long enough for the Yankees to rally.
One was made by Brett Gardner, who was playing in his first game since July 30 when he suffered a fractured left thumb sliding in second base.
With one out in the fifth inning, Dioner Navarro blooped a single to center and later stole second. Fernando Perez then lofted a high deep fly to right-center that Swisher could not reach. But Gardner came flying in from center and made a diving catch to take at least double away from Ramsey and prevent Navarro from scoring.
“We’ve always said that one of his big gifts is his speed,” Girardi said of Gardner. “To me, that changed the game, as well. It’s a different game if that ball falls. That’s an unbelieveable play that he made.”
The other play came from Posada in the eighth inning.
Carl Crawford opened the inning by coaxing a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Hughes. Crawford, who is second in the American League with 55 steals, was poised to try to get in scoring position for the Rays.
But Posada called a pitchout on the first pitch to Ben Zobrist, fired the ball to second baseman Robinson Cano and Cano tagged Crawford as he slid into the base and he was called out by second base umpire Gary Cedarstrom.
“If he gets on, he’s going to try to create something,” Girardi told MLB.com. “With the heart of the order coming up, that’s what he’s going to try to do. He’s not been thrown out much. Hughes did his job, Jorge did his job, and that’s a big play in the game.”
The Yankees’ first-inning run off Garza was unearned. Teixeira reached first with two out when Jason Bartlett booted his grounder on the first base side of second base. Rodriguez then blasted a lined rocket double to left-center that scored Teixeira easily.
That was all the Yankees could manage off Garza until he left the game. The Rays had similar problems with Sabathia.
“He doesn’t get himself in trouble, Girardi said. “He doesn’t walk a lot of people. He stays ahead in the count. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s done for years. That’s what made him so attractive to this organization.”
“I was able to get the ball down in the strike zone,” Sabathia said to MLB.com. “When I’m not trying to throw hard is usually when I’m throwing the hardest. The offspeed stuff was pretty good, the cutter was good. With two strikes, I was able to get a lot of strikeouts with it.”