YANKEES 1, RAYS 0
It was a classic pitcher’s duel harkening back to the days of Sandy Koufax vs. Juan Marichal or Tom Seaver vs. Nolan Ryan or Jack Morris vs. Greg Maddux.
But the contest all turned on two very sloppy throwing errors.
CC Sabathia of the Yankees and James Shields of the Rays pitched 17 innings in which neither pitcher allowed an earned run. But the boys from The Bronx defeated Tampa Bay on Sunday with the help of an errant pickoff throw by Shields to nab Robinson Cano at third base.
Sabathia (13-4) pitched a complete game shutout to extend his scoreless streak to 24 2/3 innings and won his 10th game in his last 11 starts and his sixth in a row. He also became the major leagues’ first 13-game winner. He gave up only four hits and a walk while fanning nine batters to outduel Shields (8-7), who was also the victim of some overanxious base-running by his teammates and two very costly errors in the seventh inning.
Cano opened the seventh with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Ben Zobrist. Jorge Posada followed with a routine fly ball to center-fielder B.J. Upton.
But after retiring Posada, Upton — attempting to catch Cano napping between first and second — fired a throw to first base and ended up airmailing it into the Yankee dugout for a two-base throwing error. Russell Martin followed with a hard hit groundout that kept Cano at third.
Then Shields, who has 10 pickoffs this season, became a little greedy. Rather than concentrating on retiring Brett Gardner, Shields set up a trick play to pick off Cano at third base with Sean Rodriguez. As Cano took a secondary lead off third, Shields whipped a throw towards Rodriguez. But the throw sailed high and behind Rodriguez and Cano, who would have been a dead duck with a proper throw, trotted home with the game’s only run.
Shields pitched 8 innings and gave up four hits and a walk, striking out five.
But Sabathia was better while the Rays were playing it too fast and loose on the basepaths all afternoon. Of the four hits the Rays collected off Sabathia, three of the runners were retired running the bases.
In the second inning, Rodriguez hit a leadoff double but was gunned down by Martin trying to steal third base. In the fourth inning, Upton reached first on an infield single with one out. But he was caught stealing by Sabathia when Upton broke for second too soon. Upton also reached on an infield single in the seventh. But he misjudged a line drive to right off the bat of Rodriguez and he ended up being doubled off first on a throw from Andruw Jones.
The Rays might have hoped to get to Sabathia by being lucky rather than good. But instead they ended up cursed and frankly a little stupid in running themselves into outs.
With the victory, the Yankees improved the record at the All-Star break to 53-35 and they remain a game in back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Rays fell to 49-41 and they are in third place in the division, six games behind the Red Sox.
- Sabathia was so dominant he pitched to more than three batters in an inning in only the first two innings. His nine strikeouts give him a total of 42 in his last 31 2/3 innings. He has only given up one run in his last 39 2/3 innings, dating back to a start June 19 against the Cubs. That run came on a Ty Wigginton solo home run in the sixth inning for the Rockies in an 8-3 Yankee victory at home on June 25. Sabathia also has lowered his season ERA to 2.72.
- The Yankees’ four hits were collected by Cano, Gardner, Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nunez. Mark Teixeira drew a two-out walk in the first and that was the only offense for the Yankees all afternoon against Shields. A day after his historic 3,000th hit, Jeter’s single in the third inning, a bunt hit, extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 10-for-23 (.435) in those five games.
- The Yankees played “little ball” to near perfection in the third inning. Nunez opened the frame with an infield single. Jeter followed a bunt single down the third-base line. Curtis Granderson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Nunez and Jeter up a base. But Teixeira’s potential sacrifice fly to score Nunez was turned into an inning-ending double play on a perfect throw home to nail Nunez by the center-fielder Upton, the same player who committed an error and two base-running gaffes in the game.
You can’t criticize a game in which you get a complete-game shutout from your ace, you make no real mental or physical errors in the game and the other team ends up handing you the game by making stupid mistakes all day.
The game was played at a rapid pace of two hours and 11 minutes, the second shortest game the Yankees have played at home this season. . . . Sabathia was pitching in the third inning when he was named to his fifth All-Star berth to replace Shields. However, because Sabathia pitched on Sunday, he is ineligible to pitch in the game. However, Sabathia will collect on an incentive bonus from the Yankees written into his contract. . . . Reliever David Robertson was also named to the All-Star team on Sunday, replacing Rays left-hander David Price, who pulled out of the game due to a minor foot injury. Robertson becomes one of eight Yankees named to the team but only Cano, Martin, Granderson and Robertson will actually be going to Phoenix, AZ. Alex Rodriguez, Jeter and Mariano Rivera were forced to pull out due to recent injuries. . . . Rodriguez has opted to have surgery on Monday to repair a small meniscus tear in his right knee and he is expected to miss four to six weeks. Dr. Lee Kaplan will perform the surgery in Miami on Monday. Rodriguez injured the knee on June 19 in a game in Chicago’s Wrigley Field and he has not hit a home run in a game since June 9. Nunez likely will be the primary replacement for Rodriguez at third base.
The Yankees have reached the All-Star break. They will count their blessings and heal their wounds in order to resume their chase to their 28th world championship in Toronto on Thursday.
The Yankees have named 38-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon (6-4, 3.20 ERA) to start that game. Colon was not Colon for the first time all season in his July 7 start against the Rays. Colon was nicked for five runs on 10 hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. He is 8-3 with a 3.41 ERA in the last 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.
Toronto will start a virtual unknown pitcher named To Be Announced (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Yankees have not faced To Be Announced in a game before but they are hoping to study up over the break on this mysterious pitcher they will face at Rogers Centre.