YANKEES 3, RAYS 1
Ivan Nova and Alex Cobb set the tone for the afternoon by matching zeros early and the Bobby Wilson’s two-run single in the top of the eighth inning helped allow the Yankees break through in this pitchers’ duel as New York downed Tampa Bay on Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Complex In Port Charlotte, FL.
Nova, who is vying along with David Phelps for the No. 5 starting spot for the Yankees, tossed four shutout innings and gave up four hits while striking out two batters. His mound opponent, Cobb, pitched five shutout innings and gave up two hits and struck out six.
The game remained scoreless until the eighth when the Yankees got a leadoff single from Francisco Cervelli and a one-out single from Thomas Neal off Dane De La Rosa (0-1). Slade Heathcott followed with a potential double-play ball that Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee botched for an error that allowed Walter Ibarra – pinch-running for Cervelli – to score the game’s first run.
Wilson then followed with a sharp single to left to score Neal and Heathcott.
The Rays scored an unearned run in the bottom of the inning off right-hander Brett Marshall (1-0), which broke the Yankees’ 25-inning scoreless streak. However, the Yankees still have not given up an earned run in 27 innings and they have allowed only two earned runs over their last 41 innings.
Matt Tracy pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
With the victory, their third in a row, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 6-11. The Rays fell to 11-7.
- Though Nova held the Rays scoreless he needed a lot of help from his defense to do it. Melky Mesa made a outstanding back-handed grab at the wall in center off Rays leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings in the first inning. In addition, Nova had to wriggle out of a major jam in the fourth. Kelly Johnson laced a single to right that Zoilo Almonte bobbled to allow Johnson to reach second. Johnson then advanced to third on a Leslie Anderson single. But Ryan Roberts lined out to third baseman Jayson Nix, Cervelli threw out Anderson as he attempted to take second and Nova struck out Sean Rodriguez swinging to end the threat.
- In addition to throwing out Anderson in the fourth, Cervelli also threw out Mike Fontenot attempting to take second in the first. In both cases, Cervelli partially blocked pitches in the dirt and threw out both runners because they thought the ball had rolled to the backstop. Cervelli is solidifying his candidacy for the starting catching spot with his defense and throwing.
- Neal, 25, was 2-for-3 in the game and has quietly raised his spring average to .333 with a homer and three RBIs. Neal was signed as a free agent out the Cleveland Indians organization and he is a non-roster invitee to camp. He has virtually no chance of making the 25-man roster but he could be valuable as a future call-up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Yankees continue to commit errors in bunches. They were charged with three but only Ronnier Mustelier’s error in the eighth hurt. The other errors were charged to shortstop Eduardo Nunez and Almonte. For Nunez it is only his second error of the spring and both have been on throws.
- Travis Hafner continues to struggle mightily at the plate this spring. Hafner was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and all came looking. Hafner is hitting .167 with no homers, one RBI and seven strikeouts thus far in spring. It is true that Raul Ibanez struggled through spring training in 2012 and ended up having a great season for the Yankees. But Hafner is either be pressing or may be taking things for granted since he has a major-league contract.
- Though Mesa is playing excellent defense and he has been hitting for power this spring, he is in a bit of a hitting funk. He was 0-for-4 in the game is his spring average has dipped to .194. Even with all that, Mesa has a great chance to make the team as a spare outfielder because he is such a great defensive outfielder.
The Yankees’ decision to sign veteran outfielder Ben Francisco does not bode well for the hopes of non-roster invitee Matt Diaz. Francisco, 31, will make his first start in left-field with the Yankees on Wednesday. Diaz, 35, is hitting only .190 with no homers and two RBIs Francisco, meanwhile, was hitting .400 with six doubles for the Indians when he requested his release so he could sign with the Yankees.
The Yankees will play host host to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Fans who plan to attend the game will see two important debuts. Left-hander Andy Pettitte will make his first start of the spring and Derek Jeter is expected to shortstop for the first time.
The Phillies will start left-hander Cliff Lee.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 4, RAYS 0
Curtis Granderson may have trouble reading fly balls at Tropicana Field but he has no trouble spotting fastballs from David Price.
The veteran center-fielder hit his second home run of the season off Price — a two-run blast in the first inning — and Freddy Garcia and the Yankee bullpen shut out the Rays as New York downed Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
For Granderson it was going from hero to goat an evening later. He lost a key a fly ball off the bat of Justin Ruggiano in the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday and then committed a throwing error that helped the Rays rally for two runs in the inning to beat the Yankees 3-2. In addition, Granderson had trouble seeing a couple of fly balls in the white-ceiling dome in Wednesday’s game.
Garcia (8-7) frustrated the Rays with an assortment of slow breaking pitches and his split-finger fastball in scattering eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven to record his 12th quality start in 17 tries this season.
Tuesday night’s other goat, left-hander Boone Logan, also had a night of redemption by striking out Casey Kotchman with two out and with runners at first and third in relief of Garcia in the seventh inning. David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera followed with a perfect ninth to complete the shutout.
But it was Granderson’s night.
After Derek Jeter reached on a single and stole second, Granderson hit a 2-1 fastball off Price into the right-field bleachers for his 26th home run of the season and his 10th against a left-hander, which leads the major leagues. Granderson hit only four home runs off left-handers last season.
Price (9-8) entered this season only haven given up one home run to a left-hander in his career until Granderson hit a three-run homer off him in Tropicana Field on May 16. In his last two starts, he has given home runs to Boston’s David Ortiz and Granderson again.
Despite his troubles in the field, Granderson also came up with a game-saving catch in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With two out and runners on second and third, Evan Longoria lofted a line drive to straightaway center-field that was over Granderson’s head. The speedy center-fielder sprinted back to the wall and caught the ball just before crashing into the wall and falling, saving Garcia two runs.
The Yankees tacked on two runs in the ninth inning off relievers Dane De La Rosa and Cesar Ramos. De La Rosa issued back-to-back one-out walks to Nick Swisher and Russell Martin. After the runners moved up on a Chris Dickerson groundout, Eduardo Nunez delivered a lined single to center to score both runners.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 57-38 and they remain 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East for the seventh straight day. The Rays, who are in the midst of an 11-game stretch of playing the Red Sox and Yankees, fell to 51-45 and they are 8 games back in third place. They have lost seven of the 10 games of these critical games against the division front-runners.
- Garcia was blasted for six runs (five earned) against the Blue Jays in his last start. He certainly forgot about it and redeemed himself on Wednesday. Garcia only had two 1-2-3 innings — the second and the sixth. He stranded two runners in the first by striking out Matt Joyce. He stranded two in the third by striking out Longoria. He left Sam Fuld on third by striking out Sean Rodriguez. Granderson’s great catch saved two runs in the fifth and Logan bailed Garcia out by striking out Kotchman, who was 3-for-3 at the time.
- Granderson was 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. Granderson now has 26 home runs, 70 RBIs and he is batting .272 on the season. The catch on Longoria was amazing because Granderson not only lost a ball on Tuesday, he lost two more on Wednesday. In the second inning, Brett Gardner had to move well into left-center to catch a ball off the bat of Rodriguez to save Granderson. In the sixth inning, B.J. Upton lofted a popup in shallow right-center that Robinson Cano had to catch over his shoulder because Granderson did not see it.
- The Yankees have been turning the tables on the Rays in this series. The Rays, in the past, have taken advantage of the Yankees by turning games into track meets. Well, in this series, the Yankees have decided to give the Rays a heavy dose of their own medicine. The Yankees stole three bases in the first game, four in the second game and four more on Wednesday. They have only been caught once by rookie Robinson Chirinos, a catcher converted from being an infielder in 2009. In contrast, the Rays have been cut down by Martin in their only two steal attempts in the series.
There is nothing to criticize except Eduardo Nunez committed his 13th error of the season and that is like beating a dead horse. The Yankees are trying to bury the Rays for good and they are doing a great job of it.
Ivan Nova injured his right ankle while pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he was placed on their seven-day disabled list on Wednesday. Nova had precautionary tests conducted on the ankle and the results were negative but the Yankees are not sure how long he will be sidelined. Nova was considered a candidate to pitch for the Yankees in a split doubleheader schedule against the Orioles in Baltimore on July 30. . . . Eric Chavez was 4-for-5 with four singles as the designated hitter with Class A Tampa in his second rehab game. Chavez, however, will not be activated by the Yankees until he is able to play in the field. Chavez has been sidelined since early May with broken bone in his left foot.
Will it be “The Duel, Part Two?”
The Yankees and Rays complete their four-game series on Thursday which features a rematch of the 1-0 pitcher’s duel between CC Sabathia and James Shields from July 10 that Sabathia and the Yankees won.
Sabathia (14-4, 2.64 ERA) is on a stretch where he is 7-0 with a 1.68 ERA in his last seven starts. He gave up only one run over seven innings to the Blue Jays on Saturday. He defeated Shields on July 10 by pitching eight shutout innings and he is 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA against the Rays in his career.
Shields (8-8, 2.60 ERA) gave up six runs in six innings against the Red Sox in his last start on Saturday. He is 3-10 with a 4.47 ERA against the Yankees in his career. With the Rays 8 games out and fading fast in the East, this is a must-game for Tampa Bay.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.