The problem with James Shields is his dependence on his changeup. When Shields changeup is working, he can survive even if his other pitches are inconsistent. But when he goes to his changeup in big spots and it fails him, he looks pedestrian out there. James Shields did not have a bad start on Tuesday, but against a tough Yankees team, his performance wasn’t enough.
It was a rainy night at Yankee Stadium- for multiple reasons. Ivan Nova allowed a single to Ben Zobrist to begin the game. But after that, he retired 13 in a row, striking out 6 and looked absolutely in control. Shields worked around 2 walks and a hit in the first three innings to match Nova zero for zero, but Robinson Cano doubled to begin the 4th. Shields then forced a couple of groundballs, the first of which advanced Cano to third and the second of which was a groundball to Will Rhymes with the infield in and Rhymes gunned down Cano trying to score for the inning’s second out. But Shields left a changeup up to Raul Ibanez, and Ibanez hit a long home run into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Shields threw another errant changeup in the 5th that resulted in another blast, this one off the bat of Curtis Granderson, to had the Yankees a 3-0 advantage. Shields went 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. 69 of his 103 pitches were strikes. He got 11 groundouts to 2 flyouts, but the two bad changeup cost him big-time.
The Rays got a run back in the 6th when Nova hanged a slider to Jose Molina and Molina didn’t miss it, drilling a solo home run. The following inning, Luke Scott saw a changeup left belt-high, and he got just enough of it to get it into the first row of the right field seats to pull the Rays within 3-2. Jeff Keppinger followed with a walk before Will Rhymes doubled into the right field corner. Keppinger rounded third before being held up by third base coach Tom Foley as the Yankees got the ball in. Still, the Yankees had second and third with 1 out. Sean Rodriguez then hit a flyball to right field, but Foley held Keppinger up as the ball was too shallow. Nova then struck out Jose Molina, escaping the threat. The Rays had blown a golden opportunity.
Raul Ibanez led off the bottom of the 7th against Burke Badenhop with a high flyball off the upper portion of the foul pole to restore the Yankees’ 2-run lead. The Rays faced off against old friend Rafael Soriano in the top of the 8th and Ben Zobrist greeted him rudely with a leadoff triple. Soriano came back to strike out Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton before a wild pitch allowing Zobrist to score to make it a 4-3 game. But the Yankees got a key insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a Mark Teixeira RBI double off of Joel Peralta (run charged to Jake McGee).
Entering the top of the 9th, the Rays trailed 5-3 to the Yankees. But the Yankees’ 9th inning weapon, Mariano Rivera, was on the DL after his unfortunate knee injury. Instead, David Robertson trotted out for the 9th for the Yankees. Robertson is known for making things exciting. That was most definitely the case on Tuesday night. With 1 out, Robertson walked Will Rhymes. Sean Rodriguez followed with a single. Brandon Allen came up to the plate to pinch-hit for Jose Molina. He was the tying run. But Robertson struck him out on just three pitches. That could be Allen’s final at-bat as a Ray as outfielder Brandon Guyer will be called up to the big leagues on Wednesday and a corresponding roster move needs to made. But Ben Zobrist followed with a walk and it was bases loaded, 2 outs, and the tying runs in scoring positioN. Robertson got ahead of Carlos Pena 0-2 on two called strikes but then he missed with two straight to make the situation even more tense. But Robertson got a call on a fastball on the outside corner for strike three, and the Yankees won 5-3. Nova improved to 4-1 with a win. He went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 8 while walking 2. Shields (5-1) took his first loss of the year, aN. Robertson recorded his 1st save of the season and 4th of his career. It was riveting game between the Rays and Yankees but the Yankees came up with 3 home runs to team with Nova’s great outing. The Rays have to be kicking themselves after going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. They dropped to 19-11 on the year. The Rays and Yankees back at it on Wednesday night with Jeff Niemann taking on the rookie David Phelps. The Rays look to rebound and even this series at a game apiece, and it should be another exciting game.