The Yankees came into this game with a five-game winning streak and an excellent early-season record of 10-6. And from very early on in this one, it looked like business as usual. Hiroki Kuroda took the ball for the Yankees, coming into the game with a 3.86 ERA in 18 innings, par for the course for Kuroda. He got off to his usual start, working efficiently through the first two innings and inducing a heck of a lot of weak contact. In the second inning, the Yankees looked like they would make this one a blow out. Brian McCann started the inning with a base hit and Yangervis Solarte followed (aside: Solarte's hitting 193 wRC+ so far this season) with another one. Kelly Johnson then hit into an odd fielder's choice where James Loney tried to get the double play and only hit Solarte on the back, deeming everybody safe as the ball was dead. The unimposing Scott Sizemore then followed with a huge bases-clearing double. And with an Ichiro infield single (that was a reversed call) and an RBI ground out for Gardner, the Yankees had a quick 4-0 lead.
Kuroda looked like he was going to cruise going into the fourth, until the Rays threatened for the first time. Loney hit a 2-RBI double and one batter later, the tying runs were on base. Kuroda worked out of it and got Logan Forsythe to ground out. But, it would be a harbinger for things to come. The Yankees' offense was held at bay by Brad Boxberger who pitched an excellent two innings of no-hit ball as he relieved the ineffective Erik Bedard. In the bottom of the 6th, things started to get ugly. With runners on first and second, Kuroda allowed an RBI single to Wil Myers who narrowed the gap to 4-3. It was clear by that point that Kuroda had no gas left, and he was pulled immediately afterward. David Phelps came in to get a fly out and for the moment, things were under control. In the top of the 7th, the Yankees even tacked on a key insurance run on an Alfonso Soriano RBI single, and that looked like it could seal the deal. That would have been great.
In the bottom of the inning, Phelps was removed after he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Hanigan, but he seemed alright; it was probably for precautionary reasons. Matt Thornton came in and allowed a single to Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Then Adam Warren came into the game. Warren has been scaring us game and after game as he's teetered on the edge of implosion, but he decided he was going to make our fears become a reality. Desmond Jennings promptly hit an RBI single to net a run; Warren then walked Evan Longoria and allowed a 2-RBI single to Loney that gave the Rays the lead, 6-5. After that, it just looked like the Yankees gave up.
In the top of the 8th, the Yankees went down in order. And in the bottom of the 8th, we entered the nether region of weird baseball. Warren got two quick outs, getting Forsythe to fly out and got Escobar to ground out to third. Then, he allowed a double to Hanigan and a no-doubt home run to Sean Rodriguez, giving the Rays a three-run lead at 8-5. Warren completely melted down in this one, shown by his Win Probability Added of -.664. Yikes. Maybe Joe Girardi should think twice before putting him in to one of the highest leverage situations in baseball. That would have been enough, but the agony continued. Cesar Cabral came in for relief and decided: "Hey, I'm going to forget how to pitch!". I don't even have words for what happened. He allowed a single to Brandon Guyer to score another run, and Myers hit an RBI single to left field to bring in yet another two runs. But in the process, Cabral managed to throw a wild pitch to let a runner advance to second, and hit three (!!!!!!!!) batters in the inning. That ties the major league record for hit-by-pitches in an inning. He was so out of control that home plate umpire Joe West threw Cabral out of the game for a lack of control, which brought in Shawn Kelley to end the inning. I've watched a lot of baseball, but I've never seen that happen. Thankfully, Brandon Gomes killed this game and retired the Yankees in order in the 9th.
I'm not going to lie--this game was ugly. I would have preferred if the Yankees had allowed eleven runs early in the game and put it to rest half way through; those are easy to brush off. That happened against the Orioles and the team quickly moved on. This one was so demoralizing because they had a Win Expectancy at around 90%; it was basically in their clutches. It's only one game, but in such a tight AL East race, it's painful to cough up a game like that to a divisional opponent.
The Yankees will square off once again against the Rays for the third game of a four-game set; they hope to secure at least a split as Ivan Nova will face Chris Archer. You can catch the game on YES, MLB.tv, or WFAN radio at 7:10 PM EST.