There are some games where it’s one player carrying your team as far as they can go. But it’s exceedingly rare that 0ne player can win a game all on his own. No player is perfect–even if a hitter’s 4 for 4, there’s a high probability he won’t reach base his next at-bat and even if a pitching is throwing a perfect game, it’s only a matter of time before he makes a mistake. Evan Longoria looked great for the Rays on Sunday, and Robinson Cano did the exact same thing for the Yankees. It was two of the best players in baseball going neck-and-neck with a critical game on the line. But the question was which team could have a player other than their star deliver a clutch hit, and the answer turned out to be the Yankees.
The Rays staked Alex Cobb to an early lead in the 1st inning on an Evan Longoria RBI single off of Ivan Nova. But after allowing just a Robinson Cano single and a Curtis Granderson walk in the first 3 innings, Cobb served up a solo homer to Cano in the 4th to tie the game at 1. Then two innings later, it was Cano right back at it again, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead on an RBI double. After Alfonso Soriano reached on a single and advanced to 2nd on a Yunel Escobar error and Granderson was intentionally walked, Cobb found himself in a jam, and Alex Torres had to come in to record the final out of the inning. Cobb went 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. He was decent, but decent was not enough in this game. Cobb’s inability to get Cano out made all the difference.
The Rays knotted the game at 2 in the bottom of the inning as Longoria responded to Cano with a solo homer of his own. But Longoria’s two RBIs proved to be all the Yankees could get against Nova. Nova went 6.2 innings and didn’t fool anyone, allowing 6 hits and walking 6 while striking out 3. However, the Rays grounded into 3 double plays and simply could not get a hit in the clutch, letting opportunity after opportunity as they cost themselves this games.
The two bullpens battled for quite a while after the starters departed, with Rays relievers allowing just 1 hit in their first 3 innings and Yankees relievers giving up just a walk in their first 3.1 innings. Jamey Wright managed to work around a hit in the 10th to keep the game going. But in the 11th, after Wright got Cano out to begin the inning, Alfonso Soriano doubled and stole third base before Curtis Granderson brought him home with a sac fly. It wasn’t as exciting as say Cano’s home run, but you don’t need a team of superstars, just a team of contributors if you want to win games. Mariano Rivera throttled the Rays in a perfect 6-pitch 11th for his 38th save as the Yankees won 3-2. The Rays simply could not do anything beyond Evan Longoria and David DeJesus (3 for 4, but with a caught stealing), and that undoubtedly cost them this game. They will have to settle for 2 out of 3 from the Yankees and see wait happens as the Red Sox play the Dodgers on Sunday night to determine whether they stay in first place in the AL East. The Rays travel to Kansas City for a makeup game at 2:10 PM on Monday, with Jeremy Hellickson desperately hoping to get on track as he takes on Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals.