Well, since the starting pitching matchup was the baseball's top prospect entering 2012 against a guy who was booted from the starting rotation in April, perhaps Yankee fans should be thankful that tonight's game was so close. That doesn't make losses like these feel any better though.
Both Freddy Garcia and Matt Moore turned in fine pitching performances today, each in their own typical fashion. Garcia brought his bag of magic tricks from last year and held the Rays to two runs in 5.1 innings of work, despite several lineouts and "fliners," as FanGraphs likes to call them. He gave up only five hits, but two of them were solo homers. The start was easily Garcia's best of the season. It was not a great performance by any means, but on most days, it would have been good enough to win. Unfortunately that second homer came on his final batter of the game. LOOGY Clay Rapada was getting ready in the bullpen, but Garcia was allowed to face righty-killer Carlos Pena. A few pitches later, the game was tied at two, and Garcia was sent to the showers.
The Yankees got most of their scoring out of the way early against Moore. They notched four hits on two doubles and two singles in the first inning, although one of those doubles was only made possible by Hideki Matsui's presence in right field. After Derek Jeter doubled, Matsui lost an easy fly ball from Mark Teixeira in Tropicana Field's ceiling, and it dropped by him for a run-scoring double. A line-drive single by Alex Rodriguez sent Teixeira to third base, and he scored on a single by Robinson Cano. The Yankees still had runners on first and second with one out, but Nick Swisher grounded into a double play to end the inning. Although the Yankees threatened for most of Moore's performance, they weren't able to push another run across home plate until the seventh inning. Moore gave up nine hits in seven innings, but surrendered the lead when the Yankees scored on a walk, a wild pitch, and two fly outs. It was a very quiet rally powered by a walk by Chris Stewart of all people, but the Yankees took a 3-2 lead. As the score indicates, it did not last.
Boone Logan entered the game with one out in the seventh inning, and the Rays started a rally similar to the Yankees' efforts in the top half of the frame. Logan decided that walking Sean Rodriguez would be a good idea because hey, Moore walking Stewart was a good idea too, and that worked out well! Sure enough, Rodriguez moved to second on a wild pitch, and the tying run was in scoring position. Logan induced a flyball from Jose Lobaton, and Joe Girardi decided to bring in fireballer David Robertson to face pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad. Robertson gave up a hard-hit fly ball down the right-field line that went for a double, scoring Rodriguez to tie the game. Robertson was lucky the ball didn't go for a homer since it was hit so hard, but that luck he gained was the yin to the next at-bat's yang.
Elliot Johnson dribbled a grounder to Teixeira, who uncharacteristically had it skip by him. It was a three-base error, and it scored Conrad to give the Rays the lead. The ball seemed to take a weird hop off of the side of the first base bag, but those are the breaks. Robertson would have been out of the inning with the tie if Teixeira had fielded the ball properly, but he also would have been out of the inning with the lead if he had retired Conrad. Regardless, Robertson got Desmond Jennings to pop out in foul territory to end the inning, but the damage was done. The Yankees did not even put a baserunner on in the eighth and ninth inning against Joel Peralta and closer Fernando Rodney. A-Rod did drill a long fly to deep right-center against Peralta to start the inning, but it died at the warning track. That was the closest the Yankees came to tying the game. At least Chad Qualls had a peaceful Yankee debut, striking out B.J. Upton and inducing a fly ball from Jeff Keppinger. Oh, and Clay Rapada struck out Pena to begin the top of the ninth. Worth noting.
The Yankees have now lost eight games in a row in Tampa, their longest road losing streak specifically in another park since losing eight in a row to the Texas Rangers in 1989-91. It's been awhile, but weird statistics are, well, weird like that (plus three of those losses came at the end of 2011 when the division title was already clinched). Matsui left the game after tightening his hamstring chasing a foul ball. It was bizarre that he was out there in the first place since he had only played four games in right field in his major-league career prior to today. But yeah! Joe Maddon's a maverick and awesome or something.
Comment of the Game: E-ROC, on the Yankees' offensive strategies with Hideki Matsui in the field.