Game 103: TB vs. NYY — Big show by “Toe” ends in “no go”… a timely trade and Cooperstown Class of ’17

And that is my last time I attempt a New York Post style headline…

Anyway, the Yankees were looking for a sweep of the Rays with this final game of their 4-game weekend series. But despite some great offense by a single player, the pitching early on had some serious issues, so Ronald Torreyes’ shining afternoon wasn’t enough to pick up the Yankees over the Rays.

Jordan Montgomery got the start today and just had a really difficult time getting through his afternoon. He threw 71 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and still struck out 5 Rays batters. In the 1st, a 1-out walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to get the Rays on the board early. Montgomery loaded up the bases in the 3rd with 2 outs and then cleared the bases through the process of a 2-RBI single and an RBI single.

Luis Cessa was called in to get out of the jam, and despite an initial wild pitch that moved runners to scoring position, Cessa got that necessary strikeout to escape the 3rd inning unscathed. Cessa ended up pitching into the 7th inning, throwing a rather clean game up until that 7th inning where he gave up a walk and single before handing things over to Chasen Shreve.

Shreve loaded up the bases but got 2 outs in the 7th before passing the baton to Chad Green who got out of the jam with a great strikeout (though the Rays batter certainly didn’t like the call). Green went on to finish off the game, getting into his own bit of trouble only in the 8th inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on a 2-out double. Green added 6 strikeouts of his own through his pretty good outing to the total for the Yankees’ pitchers tonight at 16.

The Yankees’ offense rested on a single utility/bench player. Ronald Torreyes is really good when he needs to be. In the 2nd, Headley worked a 1-out walk and ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch. Then it was Torreyes to hit a great 2-run home run into the left field seats to briefly give the Yankees the lead. Behind again in the 4th, Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk and then scored on Torreyes’ solid double to put the Yankees within a run of the Rays’ lead.

Unfortunately, the Rays had a random day where their bullpen actually did its job, so the Yankees were stunted a bit in the latter half of the game, despite some hope with 2 base runners in the bottom of the 9th that just didn’t pan out in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1.

Injury news: Austin Romine seemed to have a target on his body today for the ball. He was hit twice by the ball. In the 2nd, an bad foul ball bounced up into his throat, which stunned the catcher for a bit, but he stayed in the game like the trooper he is. But then in the 6th, while at bat, he was hit by a pitch on the side of his hand. He stayed in the game initially, but as his hand continued to swell, he was pulled from the game and sent for the requisite x-rays. X-rays came back negative, but I imagine lots of ice and rest (for both hand and throat) are in order for the next few days.

Scranton Shuttle: Before today’s game, the Yankees optioned Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled Chasen Shreve, who ended up in today’s game.

Over night, the Yankees finalized a trade to add to their lagging starting rotation. They acquired left-handed veteran starter Jaime Garcia from the Twins for minor league pitchers Zack Littell (previously with AA Trenton) and Dietrich Enns (previously with AAA Scranton) and cash considerations.

Garcia was with the Cardinals for much of his 9-year career, even helping them win the 2011 World Series. He started this year with the Braves before moving briefly to the Twins, only to be used as trade-bait for the Yankees. They now expect him to make his Yankee debut on Thursday in Cleveland when the Yankees start their 4-game weekend series there.

And just a couple hundred miles northwest of Yankee Stadium, crowds gathered to celebrate the newest inductees to the baseball Hall of Fame. Former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez and executive John Schuerholz and MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig were honored and officially became part of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Congratulations to the newest legends of the game we all love!

Go Yankees!

Game 102: TB vs. NYY — A Gardy Party, part 2

In the tooth drama and the weekend, one thing that seemed to get lost is the fact that Yankee Universe got to wake up this morning in 1st place in the AL East. Yes, readers, the Yankees are on top and holding.

So, the Yankees asked young starter Caleb Smith to start this third game of this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays. Smith threw 71 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 Rays batters. He gave up a lead-off solo homer to start the game and give the Rays an early lead. And in the 3rd, with 1 out, Smith loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk so that the lead runner scored on a sacrifice fly.

Adam Warren closed out the 4th and gave up a 2-out solo shot in the 5th to give the Rays the lead. And Betances and Kahnle kept the Rays scoreless through the 6th and 7th innings, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a little catch-up. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led-off with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Sanchez then added to the Yankees’ score with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. And Matt Holliday led-off with a single in the 6th and ended up scoring as part of pinch-hitter Chase Headley’s 2-run home run to the left field seats to put the Yankees in the lead.

David Robertson came on to set-up the 8th inning for the Yankees’ win. But he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game for the Rays. He regrouped and got through the inning, despite the blown save, before handing the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who sailed through the Rays in a 13-pitch 9th inning.

So, it was back to the Yankees for that last-minute hope to do something awesome. And they did in the bottom of the 9th. With a new reliever on the mound, Headley led-off the inning by working a walk. Ellsbury came in to pinch-run for him and promptly stole 2nd base. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Torreyes singled to load up the bases. And with no outs yet in the inning, the Rays pulled their closer for a new reliever. It didn’t help them, as Brett Gardner promptly singled home Ellsbury for another great walk-off win, the second one this series already.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Continuing the dental drama: Aaron Judge was a bit cautious during the celebration for Gardner’s walk-off single, even covering his mouth and making sure he knew exactly where Gardner’s helmet was at all times. He also took it upon himself to be the one to douse Gardner during his post-game interview, with YES reporter Meredith Marakovits skillfully dodging the blue Gatorade.

Now the Yankees continue this march back into dominance this season, nicely back in 1st in the AL East, ready for a sweep of the Rays with tomorrow’s game. After tomorrow’s closer, the Yankees faced the visiting Tigers for an early week series to closer out this home stand. They are on quite the winning streak and continuing to do so could secure their place in October baseball this season, a much-needed boost to the franchise and a rather realistic goal for the first time in many years.

Only 102 games in, and there’s still quite a bit of time left. I mean, sure they’ve already started the category for the wild card that explains how many games a team must lose before being eliminated from even the wild card spot in the postseason (the lowest number is 41 right now).

Also, a random trivia bit: today’s starter, Caleb Smith, celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. So a slightly belated Happy Birthday to Caleb!

Go Yankees!

Game 101: TB vs. NYY — Bronx Bombers back #TanakaTime

Basically, tonight’s game was everything you’d want a game to be if you’re a Yankee fan. Except it was super short. Clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, it’s easily one of the shorter games of the season, and it’s really easy to place the blame on the Yankees for this. They came in ready to continue this winning momentum, and then they did just that.

And most of the reason for the ease of this game was that starter Masahiro Tanaka was just a beast tonight, getting the visiting Rays batters to strike out a whopping 14 times. He even held them to a no-hitter until a 6th inning 2-out single snuck by Gregorius. But then Tanaka got back in the game with a strikeout. Tanaka gave up just one more hit, a 2-out solo shot to allow the Rays their lone run of the game.

So after 8 innings and 109 pitches, Tanaka Time was done. The game was turned over to David Robertson, who breezed his way through the 9th inning in just 6 pitches. Boy, it’s good to have him back on our side of the game.

The Yankees were able to support Tanaka’s outstanding pitching effort with enough run support on the backs of home runs by their outfielders. In the 1st, Brett Gardner liked that 3rd pitch of the at-bat again to lead off the inning with a big solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen. Aaron Judge followed suit with a 1-out solo shot, his 33rd home run of the season.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk, and Gardner worked a 2-out walk. This set up Clint Frazier to hit a no-doubter 3-run home run deep into the left field seats, above the visitor’s bullpen.

After a couple of innings against a former teammate, the Yankees decided to change things up and play some small ball in the 8th. Gardner was hit on the back shoulder by a pitch (he’s fine) and, after a strikeout, moved to 2nd on a ground out. The Rays’ reliever intentionally walked Sanchez, so a wild pitch moved both Gardner and Sanchez into scoring position. Didi Gregorius then singled to score Gardner easily, but then Sanchez tried to score too and got caught out at home to end the inning.

But the Yankees already had a hefty lead, so it was all good at the end.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

So, I left out a small part of the “Gardy Party” celebration last night because I wanted to see how the story played out. And honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Gardner, as you know, hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning last night, and as he came into home where the team was waiting to celebrate, he tossed his helmet off. Well, Judge saw the stray helmet and thought someone might trip over it, so he picked it up. In the process of celebrating, the helmet bounced off someone else and bounced into Judge’s face, chipping his front left tooth.

No worries for Judge and his thousand-watt smile. A dentist fixed it this morning, and Judge clearly was in tonight’s game and continued to make an impact like nothing happened. After last night’s game, the reporters asked guys in the clubhouse who broke the tooth, and there was a bit of back and forth blaming each other in good fun — fingers pointing to Clint Frazier and Austin Romine. But really, it was a chipped tooth. Very fixable.

And I didn’t think it was that big of a deal last night, but my Twitter feed (when not filled with political drama) was filled with dental jokes, comments, and pictures of Yankees security searching the field for the piece of the tooth (which they never found). Maybe I wasn’t as concerned because I’ve chipped teeth before. They’re fixable. It’s not fun to get done, but it’s no big deal. I don’t know.

But it’s a good filler for a short game tonight.

Tooth drama is over. Judge is good. (Despite the naysayers on message boards that still think he and Sanchez are battling the “Home Run Derby Curse”.) The Yankees are on a roll, and we’re all on board to chase the October baseball dreams.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: TB vs. NYY — A walk-off Gardy Party

100 games. The Yankees hit this milestone on an upswing, winning their last 5 of 6 games, and just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. So they went into this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays with this momentum.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight and held off the Rays for most of his outing, but then struggled to find his footing in his final inning. Sabathia threw 86 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, but struck out just 3 batters. He gave up a lead-off home run in the 4th to get the Rays on the board, but it would be the 5th inning that would give him trouble. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive doubles that scored one more run. After a walk, the Yankees gave Sabathia to hook and replaced him with Chad Green.

Unfortunately, Green promptly gave up a double that scored 2 more runs for the Rays, both charged to Sabathia, before Green got himself out of the inning. Green had some issues in the 6th as well, giving up a 1-out solo home run. It wasn’t clean, but the damage was limited.

Kahnle did a fantastic job in the 7th, throwing just 9 pitches to breeze through the Rays. With 2 quick outs in the 8th, Betances, of course, gave up a couple of singles to make things interesting before getting a ground out to get out of the threat. Warren’s 9th inning also kept the Rays from adding to their score.

The Yankees actually got on the board first. In the 2nd inning, Headley hit a 1-out single and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Ellsbury then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. Gary Sanchez’s 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to keep the Yankees in the lead, but after the Rays caught up and passed them, the Yankees took their time to catch up.

In the 8th, Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Headley’s single. After a new Rays pitcher, pinch-hitter Matt Holliday hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd, but scored Gregorius. And Brett Gardner led-off the 9th inning with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single to tie up the game and force them into extra inning.

Aroldis Chapman just fired his way through the 10th and 11th innings in just 19 total pitches and 4 stellar strikeouts, setting himself up for the win. Brett Gardner liked the 3rd pitch in the 11th inning and hit a big home run into the right field seats, his 18th of the season, for the walk-off home run victory.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 11 innings.

CC Sabathia earned his 2800th career strikeout tonight. He currently sits at 21st on the all-time strikeout leaders, just 3 behind legendary pitcher Cy Young. Sabathia also the leader among all active pitchers, nearly 400 more than the next active pitcher. {Note: the graphic on the video link and posts on Twitter list Sabathia as now surpassing Young, but every other noteworthy source, even MLB.com itself, has Cy Young listed at 2803 strikeouts, not the 2799 you’ll see on the link. I’m assuming it has to do with how often scoring differences and record-keeping occurred before a lot of general regulations we’ve become so accustomed to these days.}

In a brief side note, the strike zone was a little high tonight (basically shoulder to mid-thigh, rather than the standard numbers to knees), which angered both teams for most of the game. Eventually, it would be Girardi to get the boot in the 7th

Both Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin are nearing their rehab assignments, which will probably both be right after this weekend series. Hicks’ oblique issue is concerning because it can feel deceptively better and then a slight twist to the torso can tweak it all over again. Austin’s hamstring is a fairly common injury, but still needs caution in the process of recovery.

Muscle issues are much harder to bounce back from than broken bones. When broken bones are healed, there’s definitive evidence — it’s not broken any more and the bone has fused itself back together (it’s actually a really cool process). But with muscles, there’s no clear-cut way to tell if you’re 100% healed, even if it feels much better. Minute tears in the muscle can hide and suddenly cause much more damage, setting back recovery even further. Stay safe, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 41: NYY vs. TB — Starters strong at the Trop, 28 strikeouts

With the Yankees on the road for 81 games of the season, you get a great look at different parts of this country, different cities all over. So when I do my daily recap, I try to pull in fun things from the host city so that while you may never set foot in the cities (though you should because traveling is amazing!), you can experience a taste of exotic cities like St. Louis, St. Paul, and St. Petersburg.

Anyway, one of the things I like to do is find out the city’s nickname. Sometimes they’re well-known (like the “Windy City”), sometimes they’re really repetitive (both Seattle and Cincinatti are known as the “Queen City”), sometimes they’re interesting (Kansas City is the “City of Fountains”), and sometimes they’re just weird. I came across this list for St. Petersburg (where the Rays play) and also for Tampa (because it’s the largest city in the area) — St. Petersburg: “Always in Season”, “The Burg”, “Sunshine City”, and just “St. Pete” (as all the locals call it); Tampa: “Cigar City”, the “Lightning Capital of the World”, “America’s Next Greatest City”, “City of Champions”, and (my personal favorite) “The Big Guava”.

So, as I write this blog from “The Big Guava”, I think over this weekend series that took place just across the bay in “Sunshine City”. (Sorry, but this has been a long weekend.) The Yankees fell out of 1st place and then earned it back upon today’s win (and Baltimore’s loss against Toronto) to be back in 1st by just a half-game.

CC Sabathia got the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Rays. Sabathia tends to do pretty well at Tropicana Field, so it was no surprise that he had a pretty strong outing today. He threw 95 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up just 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 6 Rays’ batters.

With 2 outs (both strikeouts) and 2 runners on base in the 1st inning, Gary Sanchez went for a pick-off attempt at 1st, but the throw was off and passed Carter to allow the lead runner to score from 2nd (the unearned run). And a 1-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the Rays’ score to bookend Sabathia’s outing.

The Yankees offense faced a really fantastic pitcher, the Rays’ ace and a player on my top 5 non-Yankees pitching list, who just dominated the Yankees’ lineup today. Honestly, throwing into just the 7th inning, he got the Yankees to swing into an impressive 12 strikeouts.

But the Yankees, being the team that they are this season, found their moments, and it paid off in the end. Easily the weakest inning of the Rays’ ace, the 2nd inning began with Ellsbury’s double. Didi Gregorious (who had a fantastic day, going 4-for-4 today) hit a 1-out single and scored Ellsbury. And it would be Brett Gardner to hit his 8th home run of the season, a 2-out, 2-run shot into the first row of the right field seats to give the Yankees the slim lead they wouldn’t surrender all game.

The Yankees bullpen had a strong showing today, especially with that slim lead they had to protect. Green, Clippard, and Betances finished off and split the final 4 innings of the game, keeping the Rays off the bases and away from home plate.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees, Rays win series 2-1.

The Yankees are now on their way back to the Bronx for their 7-game home stand, 4 games against the Royals and 3 against the Athletics. Plus, tomorrow kicks off HOPE Week, my favorite week of the year, where the Yankees honor local community organizations and outreaches, giving them a platform for their non-profit and a nice donation to continue their good work in the community.

Scranton Shuttle update: The Yankees called Bryan Mitchell back from AAA Scranton, sending Giovanni Gallegos back in exchange for a fresh arm in the bullpen. The bullpen continues to get a lot of work, but they are fairly strong and dominant this season. Something that clearly contributes to the fact that the Yankees are back on top of the AL East.

Go Yankees!

Game 40: NYY vs. TB — And they say baseball’s a boring game…

I blame the Hawaiian shirts. Unless you are a man of a certain age or going to a theme party, there is absolutely no reason for Hawaiian shirts to exist or to be an acceptable marketing tool to fans for a Saturday afternoon game. I don’t care that it’s Florida, but this isn’t Key West in 1977. You aren’t Elvis Presley or Jimmy Buffett. And I really need something to blame.

Of course, the drama with the home plate umpire should be enough. It’s certainly enough to warrant a nearly four hour afternoon game in St. Petersburg today, the middle game against the Rays this weekend. The Yankees were looking for Masahiro Tanaka to give them a good base to get a win today. But it was not to be. Tanaka got really roughed up from the start, throwing into the only the 4th inning with 76 pitches, giving up 9 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, striking out 4 batters. It’s hard to believe this is the same Tanaka from Spring Training.

Tanaka gave up a lead-off home run in the 1st inning to set the tone for his outing (and the game, really).  In the 2nd, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base, a double scored the lead runner before Tanaka intentionally walked the next batter. And then the runner at 2nd dangled too far off base and reminded the world why April saw the phrase “You don’t run on Gary!” become popular. He ran on Gary, and he got out. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd added another notch to the Rays’ score.

But it would be the 4th inning that really sealed the deal for the game. The lead-off batter doubled, and the next batter struck out on a wild pitch that allowed him to reach base safely (thus negating the out). A 3-run home run (by the same guy that led-off the game for the Rays with a homer) really cemented the Rays’ lead. Two singles and runners on the corners later, Tanaka was done for the afternoon.

In came Tommy Layne. Layne walked the first batter and loaded the bases, but then the infield got some great defense in with consecutive line-outs up the middle and a force out at 2nd to get out of the jam. That’s called teamwork.

Before we get to the heart of the drama today, the Yankee weren’t exactly sitting back watching the Rays tally up these runs without adding some of their own. Aaron Judge kicked off the 2nd inning with his 15th home run of the season into the right field seats to initially tie up the game. Then in the 4th, with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, Chase Headley’s double scored both Castro and Judge to tie up the game again. And in the 5th, Gary Sanchez hit a big 2-out solo home run up the middle to tack on another run for the Yankees. Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch but then the Rays got the 3rd out of the inning to halt any attempt to rally.

And then came the now infamous bottom of the 5th inning. A lead-off single and fly out seemed rather innocuous to start this inning. But then Layne hit the next batter, throwing a bit high actually. (more later) A single score the lead runner, and that was it for Layne. Giovanni Gallegos got the opportunity to try, but promptly loaded the bases with a walk. A single then scored 2 of the runners, so pitching coach Larry Rothschild made a visit out to the mound to check on his pitcher. Sometime between saying his bit to Gallegos and before hitting the baseline, the home plate umpire decided to eject Rothschild. (again more later)

Joe Girardi was just as confused as I was on that decision and came out to question the call. And in the process, he too joined Rothschild in the clubhouse for the rest of the game. But not before Girardi took a page out of old Yankees manager Billy Martin and actually physically walked over to home plate and covered up the base with dirt. Then Gallegos walked the next batter and loaded up the bases again before getting a well-placed strikeout and a force out at 2nd to get out of his own jam.

The Yankees came up to bat at the top of the 6th inning, and the drama continued. Aaron Judge was promptly hit by a pitch on the left side, which is where you hit someone if you intend to hit them. The home plate umpire immediately ejected the Rays’ starter, and this may be the only ejection I actually agreed with tonight. A former Yankee came on to give up a double to Ellsbury to put runners in scoring position. Judge then scored on Chase Headley’s ground out, but then breezed through the next 8 outs of the Yankees. The Yankees got a baserunner in the 9th, a walk, but the Rays pitching found favor at the plate and ended the Yankees’ hopes for a comeback.

The Yankees’ pitching began to take a turn for the better as Gallegos got 2 outs in the 6th before Chasen Shreve breezed his way through 4 outs, 3 of them solid strikeouts. Jonathan Holder’s beautiful 9th inning continued his momentum and solidifying him for being a key aspect of the Yankees bullpen.

Final score: 9-5 Rays.

Okay, so let’s talk about the drama and all the ejections. So, unfortunately, the batter Layne hit in the 5th that seemed to kickstart this whole mess was the same batter that already hit 2 homers off Tanaka, so the Rays’ announcers jumped to the conclusion this was on purpose. Which I guess I could understand, but like I said before, when pitchers intentionally throw at batters, they don’t throw at their heads (unless they’re major jerks). But one could argue for the fact that the Rays’ starter already hit Matt Holliday in the 4th, and thus this was revenge.

I just have a huge problem with that entire line of logic because Layne isn’t the kind of guy that would do that, especially like that. Why would a pitcher risk getting a batter on base when they need to shut them down quickly to get back in the game for a comeback?

Now, the pitcher hitting Judge? That was no doubt in anyone’s mind as on-purpose.

I had a researcher do some work for me during the game, and apparently, the home plate umpire is known for two things — ejecting people without justifiable cause and for antagonizing players and coaches to justify said ejection. Rothschild came from the mound and made an off-the-cuff remark about the umpire missing a few pitches. Ejected.

So, Girardi rightly came out to ask why Rothschild was ejected because it didn’t seem directly clear. And just because Girardi deigned to ask a question, he was immediately tossed from the game too. And, like Girardi said later, if he was going to get tossed, he was going to get his money’s worth. Hence, the redecoration of the home plate.

And I’m not just saying this because of how the drama played out. I’ve supported or condemned ejections and intent balls from both sides of the game, and sometimes the Yankees deserve the ejection or I know they hit a batter on purpose. I call it like I see it. I don’t always agree with the choices, and I’m not a big fan of intentionally hitting a batter ever (even a showboating diva). But I will be honest about what I see. And tonight was just a mess on all fronts.

It’s one of those days I’m glad just to put in the books and turn the page, hoping for something better. And there has to be something better. Perhaps even less dramatic. But it struck me as amusing how everyone seems to think baseball is boring. Clearly, they’ve never witnessed a game like today. Baseball is most definitely not boring.

Go Yankees!

Game 39: NYY vs. TB — Soggy on the outside, just missed it on the inside

It’s been a scary hot week in the Tampa Bay area, setting record high temperatures and coupled with the famous Florida humidity. It may be the only reason why I’m okay with the Rays’s domed stadium in St. Petersburg. Okay, and the fact that about an hour before first pitch, there was a deluge that flooded many streets around the area because it was pretty rainy through the night, still sprinkling a bit at the final out actually. So rain and extreme heat = me okay with a domed stadium.

I still don’t like the artificial turf, but that’s a whole different issue for a whole different blog post. (Which will probably comes up later this weekend, if I’m being honest.)

Anyway, the Yankees started their weekend series against the Rays by sending Luis Severino to the mound to start the game. And Severino actually had a strong outing, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks, but only 1 run, and striking out 7 Rays’ batters. Severino gave up lead-off single in the 1st inning, but then he was out on a fielder’s choice at 2nd (failed double play #1). Then that guy was out on another fielder’s choice out at 2nd (failed double play #2). But a double scored the baserunner to get the Rays on the board.

Severino and his defense spent the rest of his tenure keeping the Rays to that lone run. Jonathan Holder came on in the 6th and continued his strong outings, keeping Severino’s momentum going in his 13 pitches.

But Adam Warren struggled his way through the first part of the 7th inning, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive singles before a sacrifice fly scored a run and moved the rest of the runners to scoring position. After a strikeout, it was on to Chasen Shreve. But his first batter, a pinch-hitter doubled and scored the 2 runners before Shreve got the final out of the 7th inning to halt their rally.

However, the unfortunate turn fell to Tyler Clippard in the 8th, who got all 3 of his outs as strikeouts. It’s what happened in between that was problematic. Strikeout #1, a walk, strikeout #2, a walk, a single (to the guy who racked up 4 hits of Yankee pitchers tonight) scored the all-important run), and then came strikeout #3 (a batter too late).

Now, the Yankees were actually the first ones on the board. In the 1st, Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and ended up at 3rd on Holliday’s double before scoring on Starlin Castro’s ground out. With the game tied in the 3rd, Gardner led-off with a single, ending up at 2nd on a throwing error, and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Like I said before, the Yankees spent most of the game defending their slim lead after Severino’s pretty stellar start.

So when the Rays jumped ahead at the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees came right back in the top of the 8th to rally. The Rays played a bit of bullpen bingo sending in a 3 new relievers in this inning alone. Under pitcher #1 of the inning, Gardner led-off with a walk, and 1 out later, it was on to pitcher #2. Matt Holliday tied things up in one swing with a nice 2-run home run into the 2nd row of the right field seats. After Castro singled, it was time for pitcher #3 who got Judge to hit into a double play to end the rally.

But then after the Rays came back in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie, the Yankees couldn’t find another rally against the Rays’ closer, who now has 11 saves so far this season, which says a lot about him as the Rays are 22 wins-22 losses. This means he’s saved half of the winning games for the Rays. A completely inconsequential statistic for a Yankees fan. But as they play them a lot, it’s good to know your opponent for their strengths and weaknesses.

Like the Rays should know that they worked up 13 strikeouts off Yankee pitchers tonight. (Remember, 7 of those were Severino’s.) So, yeah, I’d call that a strength.

Final score: 5-4 Rays

Noticeably absent in the visitor’s dugout tonight was Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who missed tonight’s game to be back in New York to see his oldest daughter graduate high school today. (Congratulations, Serena!) In his stead, bench coach Rob Thomson took on the substitute managerial role. Thomson has filled in a few times when Girardi was sick or was briefly suspended, but his record (after tonight’s game) is 1 win-3 losses.

And in roster rehab news: 1st baseman Tyler Austin was scheduled to begin his rehab games with the Tampa Yankees tonight. But like I said at the beginning, it was a bit soggy, and as Steinbrenner Field is an open-air stadium, the game was postponed until tomorrow to be the first game of doubleheader. Austin, you may remember, took a foul ball off his foot during live batting practice the day before position players reported to camp for Spring Training. He’s been healing and working his way back into pinstripes, anxious to find his place on the team again.

Now, with Bird still struggling with his own injury (a bruised bone that is just not healing right), Carter’s been filling quite well, but he was never meant to be the everyday 1st baseman for the Yankees. So Austin could be the key player to find that consistency as Bird works his way though his own healing and rehab stints. But let’s be honest, I think we’d rather see them all healthy and whole again, competing for that roster spot, than banged up and bruised.

Go Yankees!