This one wasn’t as close as the score suggests. The Yankees took a five to nothing lead in the bottom of the third inning, which would prove to be the ball game. Derek Jeter got the party started, knocking in Eduardo Nunez on a single after Nunez swiped second to put himself into scoring position. (Nunez stole three bases on the day, reminding us all that the Yankees have sorely lacked speed on the bases this year.) Alex Rodriguez then singled up the middle to score Jeter. Robinson Cano walked and then Russell Martin, who’s been red hot lately, hit a three-run homer, giving the Yankees five runs in the inning. No one knew it yet, but that was the ball game.
For a while it looked like Hiroki Kuroda was going cruise. He struck out the first six batters he faced, en route to ten K’s on the day. But the wheels came off in the sixth inning. At that point it was a six to one Yankee lead after the teams traded a pair of runs in the fourth. Kuroda loaded the bases with no outs. Then he got unlucky. Steve Pearce almost caught a pop-up in foul territory. It was in his glove before it bounced out into the stands. The big killer, though, was an odd bounce off the bat of Evan Longoria. The ball had “around the horn” double play written all over it before it jumped eight feet in the air, just out of the reach of a leaping A-Rod. Two runs would score on the hit. Kuroda would get out of the inning, but not before Tampa Bay plated another run, making it six to four.
But that would be as close as the Rays would get. The Yankee bullpen got the job done. Boone Logan, David Phelps, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano combined to allow only two base runners (Phelps allowed both of ‘em) over three innings to shut the door on the game.
The Yankees will retain sole possession of first place for at least another day. The Yankees have Monday off, but Baltimore plays Seattle in a game that starts at 10pm on the East Coast. On Tuesday Andy Pettitte will make a highly anticipated return to the rotation as the Yankees face the Blue Jays. With a guaranteed spot in the ALDS on the line, every game is important from now until the season is over. Enjoy.