Early in the game for the Yanks, the offense was entirely ignited by A-Rod. After going homerless over his last 43 at-bats, he smashed the first pitch of the second inning from David Price into the home bullpen.
During the broadcast, David Cone said he talked to Joe Maddon about moving Price, who had great success coming out of the bullpen at the end of last season, back there at any point. Maddon responded that there was never any thought, as he was simply too valuable in the rotation. Although he wasn't efficient today, it was still obvious why the Rays were of that opinion. I wonder how many fans in Tampa are clamoring for him to go back to the 'pen.
The Yanks did their best to escalate Price's pitch count and chase him from the game. With the score still 1-0 in the 4th inning, A-Rod worked a one out, 7 pitch walk . With Posada at the plate, A-Rod got a great jump and took off for second. Dioner Navarro's throw sailed into CF (his second throwing error to that point), and allowed Alex to take third easily. With the infield in, Cano hit a sharp grounder to third, which A-Rod again got a good jump on and Willie Aybar was forced to take the out at first. 2-0 Yanks.
The Rays got to Sabathia in the top of the 5th. Ben Zobrist led off with a homer to left. Joe Dillon followed with what should have a been a single, but ended up standing on third after Johnny Damon threw ball away over Cano's head for no apparent reason since Dillion wasn't going for second. Dillion scored on a sac fly by Navarro and the Rays were right back in the contest.
The third run of the day for the Yanks came on yet another throwing error by Navarro (there were a total of six errors in the game). Melky Cabrera doubled to start off the fifth, and was advanced to third by a Francisco Cervelli sac bunt. Navarro attempted a snap throw to third from his knees, but it bounced past Aybar, and Melky scored easily. Sliding back to the bag, though, the back of Carbera's neck met Aybar's shin. On the way to the plate, he held his hand to the area behind his right ear, but remained in the game.
In a matter of three batters in the sixth inning, the game turned dramatically. After a walk by B.J. Upton and a single by Carl Crawford, Willy Aybar deposited one into the left-centerfield seats to put the Rays up 5-3. It was a bit of a shocker, as CC had been in control for much of the outing.
Price took the mound to start the sixth, but was removed with two outs after having already thrown 105 pitches. Despite only 53 going for strikes, he was in line for the win. The Rays held the Yanks down for the next two innings, but that would change in the bottom of the eighth.
Mark Teixeira left off the inning against Grant Balfour and uncorked a blast as close to we have seen to reaching the upper deck in right field which put the Yanks within one. A-Rod was up next, worked a full count but popped out. Then Posada, Cano, and Swisher all reached base on a walk, a single and a walk. This set the stage, once again, for Melky Cabrera, the resident clutchologist. He grounded into was what very nearly an inning ending double play, but edged the throw at first. Replays showed it was basically a dead heat, so Melky was lucky to get the call and the Yankees to tie the game.
All the while CC Sabathia lay in wait. He was bailed out of a B.J. Upton walk by a caught stealing in the 7th and needed only 8 pitches to work through the eighth, leaving him at 101 for the day. Entering the ninth inning, I felt that Girardi should have left Sabathia in (I sent a message to our Joe on GChat, for the record). Instead, he went with "the book" which dictates a manager bring in his closer in a tie game in the ninth inning at home.
Despite allowing 5 runs, Sabathia had pitched reasonably well. He had only allowed 5 hits and smoothly maneuvered through the 7th and 8th. He could have been left in a batter by batter basis with Mo ready to be deployed from the bullpen.
Alas, Girardi did not, and Mo gave up a triple that died at the outfield fence to Ben Zobrist who scored on a single by Joe Dillon in the next at bat. That unlikely duo combined to score four of Tampa's runs after a two out single to B.J. Upton. It was Mo's worst outing of the year (3ER, 2/3IP), nudging out another game against the Rays on May 7th, during which he allowed back to back home runs to Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, the only other time this year he did not complete at least one inning. Two inherited runners scored on Phil Coke's watch and by the time three outs were recorded, four men had come to the plate. For what it's worth, 6 of the 9 runs Mariano has allowed this year have come in non-save situations.
The Yanks would not go quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Jeter led off with a single which Johnny Damon followed with a double over the head of B.J. Upton in center. Big Teix mashed a double in the right field gap off of Dan Wheeler, which scored two and brought up A-Rod as the tying run with no one out. Alex grounded out without advancing the runner and passed the buck to Posada. Jorge saw 8 pitches (2 strikes that were visibly below his knees) from Wheeler before lacing a liner right at B.J. Upton who was positioned in deep center. Joe Maddon used his sixth pitcher of the game, former Yankee Randy Choate, to get the last out against Cano. Robby alos worked a full count and lined out to Upton, who momentarily look like he misplayed it.
The ninth inning lasted a cool 47 minutes, but the game wrapped up at 4:44, which should leave Matt enough time to hit up that OTB on the way back home from the Bronx.