Whether the Rays can hang with the Yankees over the long haul will be answered in the months to come, but wins like tonight are enjoyable regardless of what the season brings.
With David Price on the hill, the Rays had to feel optimistic that a few runs could propel them to victory. Early on, that looked to be the case, as the Yankees scored two in the second and the Rays struck with one of their own in the fourth (on a Johnny Damon home run). In the fifth, though, things fell apart after Russell Martin singled.
Eduardo Nunez—who made a stunning play in the first inning and drove in the Yankees first two runs—hit a groundball to Reid Brignac, but stumbled out of the box. Brignac tossed the ball to second, but Martin reached safely, Ben Zobrist was able to receive the throw, avoid injury, and fire the ball to first in time to get Nunez. Derek Jeter then walked, albeit only after the strike zone changed shapes.
Price then entered a lengthy at-bat with Curtis Granderson that ended with a trot around the bases and three runs added onto the scoreboard—tt was the first regular season home run Price had allowed to a lefty and only the second homer versus a same-handed batter in his career. At that point, it was 5-to-1 New York and things looked in doubt.
Tommy will have more on B.J. Upton’s home run, but credit has to go to John Jaso (for hitting a double), Sam Fuld (for hitting a massive home run), Evan Longoria (for singling and then advancing on a wild pitch), and Matt Joyce (for singling then advancing on another wild pitch) for their parts in the inning too.
And, of course, it’s important to give dap to the bullpen. Juan Cruz, Joel Peralta, and Kyle Farnsworth can only dream of making as much as Rafael Soriano, but they combined for four shutout innings against a potent lineup. Lately, Joe Maddon has toyed around with using Peralta and Farnsworth for nine outs and it’s a nice development that takes the high-leverage relief idea to the next level—Bullpen 2.0, if you will—but with J.P. Howell back later this week, you wonder if the Rays won’t revert to a more traditional format.
This is the third time in the last eight days Maddon has used one or the other for more than three outs and the Rays have been victorious in two of those—with the third being the Cleveland walkoff walk.
Entertaining affair overall and the result ensures the Yankees cannot leave town with a share of first place.