The Yankees were no match for the Rays tonight. In fact, the two teams didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field. Tampa not only embarrassed the Yankees, but seemed to relish doing so.
When Jason Bartlett led off the game with a home run, it was as if the Rays were announcing their presence in the Bronx with the authority of a dominant team. The Yankees went into the game hoping AJ Burnett would turn in another strong outing against Tampa, but instead he was soon pitching mop up duty. After yielding another run in the third without allowing a hit, Burnett imploded in the fourth inning, allowing the Rays to break open the game with four more runs.
At 6-0, the game was pretty much over at that point, but the Rays were relentless. Not only did they steal six bases, but Tampa also bunted late in the game and even scored a runner from second on a deep outfield fly. At times, it seemed as if the Yankees were just standing around watching.
If only momentarily, the Yankees did spring back to life in the sixth inning after Alex Rodriguez launched a majestic home run off the blue padding beneath the batter’s eye in center. The blast seemed to jolt Rays starters Wade Davis, who surrendered two more hits (albeit wrapped around a double play that required an extraordinary effort by Evan Longoria to initiate) before being lifted in favor of Lance Cormier. A walk and an error then loaded the bases for Derek Jeter, who entered the box as the tying run. With the count at 3-0, the crowd came alive for the first time since the early part of the game, but Jeter was eventually overpowered on a 3-1 fastball that was clocked at 90mph. As he has done all too often this season, Jeter rolled over on the pitch and grounded out to short stop.
Although he clearly did not pitch well, Burnett was able to save the bullpen by going 6 2/3 innings. However, Boone Logan and Mark Melancon were unable to provide relief. Each pitcher gave up two runs a piece in their brief outings, which allowed the Rays to extend their lead to 10-2.
Those extra runs would ultimately prove costly because the Yankees roused themselves one more time in the ninth inning. After the first two outs were recorded, Brett Gardner hit would seemed to be a harmless single to extend the ballgame. Mark Teixeira then followed with a walk and busted it down to second base on Arod’s ground ball up the middle. By beating the attempted fielder’s choice, Teixeira prolonged the game for hits by Robinson Cano and Ramiro Pena, but the comeback ended when Juan Miranda waived over a breaking ball in the dirt.
Over the past 10 games, the Yankees have been able to tread water with a severely depleted roster. However, with the Rays in town, they were facing a step up in competition. All of the warts that had only slowly started to emerge were all of a sudden completely revealed. The Yankees ability to keep winning despite their injuries was admirable, but tonight’s game was a wake up call. After Marcus Thames was forced to leave the game after stepping on his own bat while running to first, the Yankees outfield consisted of Winn, Gardner and Pena. Clearly, that’s not how Brian Cashman drew things up in the off season.
The Yankees desperately need their injured players to get better soon. If no reinforcements are on the horizon, the Yankees may soon find themselves mired in a wild card morass, and catching the Rays will become only a rumor.