YANKEES 9, RAYS 5
On a day when the two best teams in baseball met with two All-Star pitchers on the mound and an important three-game series on the line it was the heat and humidity that tipped the balance of power.
Rays ace left-hander David Price, staked to an early 3-0 lead, wilted like a delicate flower in the oppressive heat of Yankee Stadium as the New York Yankees rallied for four runs in the fifth inning to defeat Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Yankees had managed to score two runs off Price in the first and tied the game on an RBI single by Mark Teixeira in the third inning. But Price suffered a complete meltdown in the fifth when the Yankees sent eight men to the plate, made him throw 36 pitches in 91-degree heat and wore down the All-Star Game starter for three hits and two walks in the inning.
The seven runs Price allowed were the most earned runs he has given up in his career.
Derek Jeter keyed the rally with a tie-breaking single up the middle to score Brett Gardner and Jorge Posada capped the rally with a two-out, two-run double that extended the Yankees’ lead to 7-3 on Price (12-5), who entered the game leading the American League in ERA at 2.42.
Chan Ho Park (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory as five Yankee relievers combined to pitch 6 2/3 innings after starter Andy Pettitte left the game in the third inning with a strained left groin.
Caught short in the bullpen after both long relievers Chad Gaudin and Dustin Moseley pitched seven innings in relief on Saturday for an injured A.J. Burnett, Girardi was forced to mix and match with the five pitchers he had available in an important division matchup and the bullpen came through.
With the victory, the Yankees won the three-game series two games to one and maintained the same three game lead they started the series with over the second-place Rays. The Boston Red Sox, by virtue of their loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday, fell to 6 1/2 games back in the A.L. East in third place.
- Though Park got credit for the victory, David Robertson’s work in the third and fourth innings was far more dramatic. He entered the game with one out, runners on first and second and a 3-1 count on Jason Bartlett. Robertson walked Bartlett to load the bases but then managed to force Sean Rodriguez to pop up to Jeter and B.J. Upton to fly out. Robertson stranded Carl Crawford at third with one out in the fourth when struck out Carlos Pena and got Ben Zobrist on an infield bouncer. It was one of Robertson’s best performances out the pen this season.
- Down 3-0 before they even batted, the Yankees got back into the game in the bottom of the first on Robinson Cano’s two-out, two-run triple to score Nick Swisher and Teixeira. Cano was 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to .336. The two RBIs give him 61 on the season.
- Posada’s two-run double in the fifth capped a three-game series in which he was 4-for-12 with two home runs and four RBIs. Posada raised his season average to .269.
- Jeter, who entered the contest with a .269 average and batting .180 in the month of July, was 2-for-5, stole a base, scored two runs and drove in one.
- Alex Rodriguez had an RBI single in the fifth inning and blasted his 598th career home run and his 15th of the season in the seventh inning. Rodriguez is third in the major leagues this season with 73 RBIs.
- Pettitte was very un-Pettitte-like even before he injured his groin. He g
ave up a leadoff single to Upton and hit Evan Longoria with a pitch and then allowed Carlos Pena to hit a three-run home run in the first inning. It was the sixth career home run for Pena off the 38-year-old left-hander, the most Pettitte has given up to any player in his career. Pettitte then gave up back-to-back singles after Pena’s home run before getting the last two outs. Pettitte, who entered the game with a 2.70 ERA, gave up six hits, three walks and three runs in 2 1/3 innings.
- Joba Chamberlain struggled again — this time in his second inning of relief. In the ninth, Chamberlain was tagged for a leadoff double by Pena and Gabe Kapler scored him on a double two outs later. Chamberlain, who began the inning with a 9-4 lead fell behind Kapler three balls and one strike. Kapler started Sunday’s game with a .212 average. Manager Joe Girardi, not taking any chances, pulled Chamberlain in favor of Mariano Rivera. Rivera retired Kelly Shoppach on one pitch to end the game.
- The Yankees pounded out 11 hits but DH Marcus Thames and Gardner were the only starters not to reach on a hit though both reached on walks.
When Pettitte left the game on Sunday he was rushed to New York Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for an MRI on his strained left groin. It was diagnosed as Grade 1 (or slight) strain, however, Pettitte will be placed on the 15-day disabled list and he likely will miss four to five weeks. The Yankees, who narrowly missed out on signing Cliff Lee last week, likely will be in the market for a starting pitcher to replace Pettitte in the rotation. . . . After cutting both of his hands on the clubhouse doors on Saturday, Burnett reported no pain in playing long toss on Sunday. Burnett, who left in the third inning of Saturday’s start against the Rays with the hand injury, is not expected to miss his next start. Burnett apologized to his teammates on Sunday for the tirade that led to his injury. . . . Alfredo Aceves, who is the disabled list with a bulging disc in his lower back, resumed throwing on Sunday and reported no problems. Meanwhile, Sergio Mitre (strained left oblique) appears ready to be activated and could be used as a replacement starter for Pettitte on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
THE NEXT GAME
The Yankees will get a chance to heal their various wounds with a well-deserved day off on Monday. They will resume their schedule on Tuesday by playing host to the Los Angeles Angels for a rare two-games series.
The Yankees will start All-Star right-hander Phil Hughes (11-2, 3.65 ERA). Hughes was the losing pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game last Tuesday. But Hughes is coming off seven innings of one-run ball against the Seattle Mariners in his last start. Hughes is 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA against the Angels in his career.
The Angels were scheduled to start Scott Kazmir on Tuesday, however, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder fatigue. The Angels are expected to call up either Trevor Bell or Sean O’Sullivan to replace Kazmir. Bell has career major-league ERA of 8.15 and O’Sullivan has a career 5.37 ERA.