Everyone struggles. The difference between the great and the ordinary is how long it takes you to break out. The Rays’ hitters were lucky enough to have an opportunity on Thursday night, and they managed to take advantage.
It was a marquee pitching matchup on Thursday night as CC Sabathia and the Yankees hosted David Price and the Rays for the finale of a three game set with the Yankees going for the sweep. After a 23-minute rain delay, the game got underway. Things immediately appeared to take a turn for the worst. The Rays’ hitters fluttered helplessly as Sabathia retired them 1-2-3 with 2 strikeouts and a soft groundball and then after Price got two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, Elliot Johnson made a throwing error and Price allowed an Alex Rodriguez single before Price could escape the jam.
In the second inning, B.J. Upton led off with a double and with 2 outs, Jose Lobaton dunked in a single to hand the Rays a 1-0 lead. But Price gave it back in the bottom of the inning, allowing a hit, a walk, a wild pitch, and a groundout. However, the game’s momentum shifted in the top of the third. With 1 out, Alex Rodriguez made a throwing error that allowed Elliot Johnson to end up at second base on an ordinary groundball. And the Rays quickly took advantage, with Ben Zobrist delivering an RBI single, and after Desmond Jennings doubled to give the Rays 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, B.J. Upton hit a sac fly to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. And then in the 4th, the Rays got back-to-back 1 out singles before Drew Sutton hit a flyball that landed down the left field line to score 2 as the Rays took a 5-1 lead. But it all looked to come apart in the bottom of the 5th.
Yankees backup catcher Chris Stewart singled to begin the inning before Price walked Derek Jeter. He then struck out Curtis Granderson, but he then walked Mark Teixeira, giving the Yankees the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate in Alex Rodriguez. Price got ahead of A-rod 1-2. A few pitches later it was 2-2 and Price went with a changeup that missed to make the count 3-2. Price was one wide pitch away from forcing in a run and one bad pitch away from a tie game. Price went with a 3-2 curveball and Rodriguez fouled it off. Then he went with an even better curve and once again Rodriguez got a piece to stay alive. And then Price threw one more curveball and forced Rodriguez to swing and miss to get the second out of the inning. Price then got Robinson Cano to ground out to get out of the inning. Price lasted just 5 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 8 while walking 4. But he came up huge in escaping that jam and that would be enough.
Sabathia would up going 7 innings, allowing 5 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 12 while walking 1. Sabathia entered the game having never lost when striking out 10 or more batters. But he left trailing 5-1. After Wade Davis tossed two shutout innings, Jake McGee allowed a run in the 8th (Joel Peralta allowed an inherited runner to score) to pull the Yankees within 5-2. But the Rays put the game away with back-to-back run scoring doubles by Drew Sutton and Elliot Johnson (Sutton’s play included an error), and after J.P. Howell allowed a leadoff homer to Russell Martin in the 9th, he got a couple outs before Fernando Rodney got the final out as the Rays won 7-3. Price (8-3) earned the win while Sabathia lost to fall to 7-3. The Rays managed to leave New York with a win before heading to Miami to begin Interleague with the Marlins. The Rays had a tough series against the Yankees as their offense was non-existent, but they came away with a win and back in a tie for first play in the AL East. The Rays are also now 17-17 without Evan Longoria. Things are not exactly sparkly for the Rays right now. But they have simply refused to wilt. We saw last year how every game counts. The Rays are not going to collapse without Longo in the lineup.