Phil Hughes started for the Yankees and though he was not great, he was at least better than C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were in the two previous games. Hughes ran into some misfortune in the first. He quickly dispatched the first two batters, Desmond Jennings and Carlos Pena and had two quick strikes to Evan Longoria. Hughes then made a beautiful pitch that froze Longoria and according to the TBS k-zone thing, appeared to be strike three. But Hughes did not get the call. As happens so often, Longoria then roped a double. Matt Joyce was the next batter and Hughes broke Joyce’s bat to induce a little flare to right. Joe Girardi, in his infinite wisdom, started Raul Ibanez in right field and had Nick Swisher as the DH. While we can agree that it is too early to judge Ibanez and his bat, his glove is a known entity and the former Phillie has no business wearing one. Ibanez was fooled on the trajectory and then tried to slide to catch the ball. Epic fail. The ball bounded by Ibanez and rolled all the way to the wall. By the time Curtis Granderson retrieved the ball, Joyce was on third with a triple and the Yankees were down, 1-0.
Hughes worked around a one-out single in the second and struck out two. Meanwhile, Hellickson was cruising along working around a walk by Granderson in the first and a double by Nick Swisher in the second.
Hughes recorded his third straight strikeout to start the third and went to three balls and two strikes on Carlos Pena. Unfortunately, Hughes and Chris Stewart settled on a fastball to Pena and the first baseman hit the ball into the right field bleachers to make it 2-0.
The Yankees had an excellent opportunity to climb back into the game in the top of the fourth. Robinson Cano grounded out to the pitcher for the first out. But Alex Rodriguez walked and Mark Teixeira came within a foot or so of his first home run of the season. He had to settle for a double and the Yankees had men on second and third with only one out. Hellickson made one of his few mistakes to Nick Swisher but Swisher missed it and popped up meekly to Longoria. Ibanez then crushed the ball on a line to center, but Desmond Jennings ran it down and the threat was over.
Hughes set down the Rays in order in the bottom of the fourth and the Yankees went down in order in the top of the fifth. Hughes then got the first two Rays in the bottom of the fifth to pop up in foul territory. But Carlos Pena, who wrecked the Yankees all weekend, hit a ground rule double to right. It was the second successive day where a fan reached over the railing to snatch the ball on the fly. The fan excitedly talked on his cell phone about his feat before security escorted him out of the building. Hughes then walked Longoria and Girardi came out to get him. Hughes did not look happy about the hook, but he was up to 99 pitches and removing him for Boone Logan to face Matt Joyce was the right call. Logan struck out Joyce and Hughes’ line for the day was complete.
Hughes pitched four and two-thirds innings and gave up two runs on five hits, two walks and he struck out five. Hughes threw fifteen changeups as Daniel Marcus correctly told us he must. Seven of the changeups were strikes. Overall, the outing was somewhat encouraging from Hughes other than his lack of efficiency. If he can avoid long at bats and keep his pitch count in a better place, he will be fine. Hughes averaged just under 92 MPH on his fastball and too many of his pitches were up. See his chart below via Brooks Baseball:
The Rays’ third run was scored in the bottom of the sixth. Boone Logan, making his first outing of the season, retired three straight batters including the last out in the fifth. But Girardi inexplicably left Logan in to face Jeff Keppinger, who if nothing else, kills left-handed pitching. Keppinger took Logan deep for a solo homer and with the way Hellickson was pitching, created a moat around the Rays’ lead.
The Yankees would muster one more threat. With two out in the sixth, A-Rod doubled and stole third on a walk by Teixeira. But again, Swisher could not get the run home and struck out to end the inning. Hellickson zipped through the lineup the rest of the game but couldn’t get the last out of the game. Fernando Rodney recorded the last out for his second save of the series.
Cory Wade had his second straight effective appearance, striking out two in an inning of work.
Raul Ibanez went without a hit in four at bats, but did hit the ball hard. But it was his terrible play in right that opened the scoring for the Rays.
The top of the order: Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano went a combined 0-11 with a walk.
Nick Swisher had a double in his first at bat, but could not come through in two scoring opportunities.
Notes: Justin Maxwell was claimed by the Houston Astros.