When reigning Cy Young winner David Price faces a lineup like the one Joe Girardi drew up tonight with Phil Hughes pitching on the other side, it's easy to predict doom for the Yankees. These hitters have struggled mightily against lefties and Hughes has a thing for serving up meatballs to the opponent at a frustrating clip. The first inning of tonight's game looked like it might be the game we all feared once Hughes began to struggle and the Yankees faced an early deficit, but that was not the game that we ended up with.
Like CC Sabathia the night before, Hughes really settled in after a rocky 30-pitch first inning. He ended up scattering six hits across seven innings and only giving up one run after the Ben Zobrist sac fly that made his leadoff walk of Desmond Jennings come back to bite him in the bottom of the first. Props to Phil for keeping his team in the game and staying in the game long enough to be able to hand the ball directly to the strengths of the bullpen, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees tied the game at one run a piece in the fourth inning after Eduardo Nunez reached base after striking out when the ball got away from Jose Molina. Back to back singles by Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells drove in Nunez before a flyout by Ben Francisco and a Lyle Overbay double play ended the threat. After the Rays took the lead again, the offense was able to tie the game at two-all in the eighth inning after Ichiro Suzuki singled and executed a hit and run with Jayson Nix at the plate. Brett Gardner was able to groundout to get Ichiro home.
David Price came back out for the ninth inning and Cano greeted him with a leadoff single. Price was replaced by Fernando Rodney and Cano decided to steal second base. He was successful. Joe Girardi sent up Travis Hafner to pinch hit for the guy hitting roughly the weight of a plump fourth grader, Ben Francisco, but Pronk's numbers against Rodney led to an intentional walk. Seeing Overbay come to the plate in this situation was far from ideal, but a couple of big boy takes got him a walk to load the bases with one out before Chris Stewart flailed at a pitch that was caught in foul territory for out number two. Enter Ichiro.
You don't need me to tell you that Ichiro Suzuki has been pretty bad this season. His presence at the plate hasn't been anything anyone would call comforting, but he came up big in this situation with a single to drive in two runs to put the Yankees ahead for good. It's way too soon to think about apologizing, but thank yous and congratulations are in order, at least for tonight.
Evan Longoria led off the ninth inning with a home run on the first pitch from Mariano Rivera, but the rest of the Rays went down in order to earn Mo his sixth save of the season. The rubber match of the series is tomorrow evening at 7:10 pm, with Andy Pettitte and Alex Cobb getting the starts. Alex Cobb pitches with his right hand. Yankee fans rejoice!
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