Game 80: Refusing To Go Down
It’s only early July. After Monday, there are 82 games remaining in the regular season. But as July goes, Monday was about as much of a must-win as you’ll ever see. The Rays entered their series versus the Yankees an embarrassing 7.5 games back in the AL East. They had been in a funk, losing 9 of their last 12 games. The Rays had to make something happen. A series loss wouldn’t doom them, but every game makes a hard task eve more daunting. What will happen in this series? We don’t know. But on Monday, the Rays had an opportunity to fall into the same traps they had the past two weeks- and they didn’t. They fought, they rallied, and they came away with a satisfying and much-needed win.
The Rays needed a sharp outing from Matt Moore. When the game started, they had to be scared out of their minds. Derek Jeter led off the game with a double. He scored two batters later when Mark Teixeira hit a routine flyball to right field that Hideki Matsui overran and let it drop for an RBI double. Matsui later left the game with a hamstring pull. Two more batters after the Matsui misplay, Robinson Cano singled in Teixeira to hand the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Moore did manage to limit the damage from there by forcing Nick Swisher to ground into a taylor-made 6-4-3 double play.
Freddy Garcia mesmerized the Rays for the first 3 innings, allowing just 2 hits without facing a major threat. B.J. Upton finally squared him up in the 4th, drilling a misplaced breaking ball for a solo home run. Moore never really settled in, allowing 7 baserunners over the next five innings following the 1st, but he stranded runners with the aid of a couple more double plays, and his resilience was rewarded in the bottom of the 6th, when Garcia hanged another breaking pitch and Carlos Pena took advantage, slamming a game-tying solo home run. Garcia, on a 75 pitch count in his first start since April 28th, allowed 2 runs on 5 hits in 5.1 innings, striking out 4 while walking none.
But the frustration for the Rays wasn’t over. Moore returned for the 7th and walked nine-hole batter Chris Stewart to begin the inning, never a good sign. A Moore wild pitch moved Stewart to second base before a Derek Jeter flyball advanced him to third, and he scored on a Curtis Granderson sac fly to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The Rays would have to come back again. Moore went 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 9 hits, striking out 3 and walking 3 as well. He wasn’t dominant at all, but he was able to keep his start from disaster and keep the Rays in the game.
With 1 out in the 7th, the Yankees brought in lefty Boone Logan to face Luke Scott, but Joe Maddon countered with Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez battled back from 0-2 to daw a walk. Logan then forced Jose Lobaton to pop out before the Rays pinch-hit Brooks Conrad for Will Rhymes and Logan gave way to David Robertson. Robertson fell behind 3-1 to Conrad before leaving the ball up and out over the plate, and Conrad got ahold of it, lacing a double off the right field wall to tie the game. Then Elliot Johnson hit a groundball down the first base line that hit off the edge of the first base line and skipped past Mark Teixeira to score Conrad and give the Rays a 4-3 lead. It was Teixeira’s first error of the season, and it could not have been better timing for the Rays.
Joel Peralta worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning before Fernando Rodney sent the Yankees down in order for his 23rd save as the Rays won a dramatic game 4-3. Moore (5-5) got the win in the game, while Robertson (0-3) took the loss. The Rays can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment. They refused to wilt and seized every opportunity they got, stranding just 3 runners in the game. It was the Rays’ 8th consecutive win over the Yankees at the Trop. One game means nothing though. The Rays have build on the momentum of this game and turn around their season. They say that momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. Big Game James Shields goes for the Rays on Tuesday night against Ivan Nova looking to turn an isolated game into the start of a turnaround.