The Yankees entered this game on a skid, and with the Rays sending their ace Chris Archer to the mound, the Yankees’ struggles looked like they might continue. But CC Sabathia stepped up with a second consecutive solid start, and there was just enough offense for New York to get across the finish line with their noses in front.
Quickly, however, Sabathia found himself in trouble. Corey Dickerson reached on an infield single, and Evan Longoria worked a walk with one out. Sabathia struck out Rickie Weeks, but Gary Sanchez threw a pickoff attempt into right field, allowing a hustling Dickerson to score from second and give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Archer didn’t hold the lead for long though, as Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a leadoff double to start the second. Didi Gregorius evened the score with an RBI single, his first of four hits on the day, and Brett Gardner put the Yankees up 3-1 with a two-run home run. That marked Gardner’s eighth homer of the year, more than he had during all of 2016.
Sabathia settled right in after the shaky start, retiring 12 batters in a row. He was on cruise control until the fifth, when he hung a slider to Derek Norris, who lined the pitch into the left-field seats for a solo shot, slicing the lead to 3-2.
Just as Sabathia was settling in, so was Archer. The Yankees were fortunate to string a few hits together to get on the board early, as simply putting the ball in play soon became a struggle. Archer, pumping 97 mph heat all game, generated 20 swinging strikes on the day, and through just four innings had recorded ten strikeouts.
Sabathia was knocked out after Dickerson singled to lead off the sixth, but on the whole, this was another step in the right direction. He didn’t light up the radar gun, averaging just 89 mph on his heater. But he was in command of his pitches and avoided hard contact, weaving his way through the Tampa Bay lineup, rather than overpowering them. He allowed just one earned run, and struck out six compared to one walk.
Chad Green relieved Sabathia and erased Dickerson’s single thanks to an outstanding play by Aaron Judge. Longoria lined one deep in the right-center field gap, but Judge covered an acre of ground quickly and made a diving grab before doubling Dickerson off first. It was a quiet day at the plate for Judge, as he struck out four times, but he still managed to make the play of the game.
Archer tried to get the Rays through seven but the Yankees managed to chase him with one out in the seventh. A base-hit from Gregorius and a walk by Chris Carter forced manager Kevin Cash to go to Danny Farquhar, ending Archer’s game. He struck out 12 and walked two, with Gardner’s homer the only real blemish on his record.
Farquhar fanned Gardner, before walking Sanchez and striking out Matt Holliday to leave the bases loaded. Green stayed on for the bottom of the seventh, but was relieved in favor of Tyler Clippard after Kevin Kiermaier reached third base after a stolen base and groundout. With the tying run 90 feet away, Clippard got Logan Morrison to pop out after an 11-pitch at-bat.
Clippard struck out the first two batters of the eighth before giving way to Dellin Betances. That Girardi would call on Betances for a four-out save with no one on and two down in the eighth seemed to indicate Girardi really wanted to nail this one down, and ensure that the Yankees’ three-game losing streak stopped right there.
And stop there it did, as Betances retired the Rays in order. It was Betances’ second save since Aroldis Chapman went on the disabled list, and he looked every bit a full-fledged closer, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun and striking out three of the four batters he faced.
The win put the Yankees back in first place in the AL East by half a game over the Orioles at 25-16. It was close, and at times not pretty, but where snapping a losing streak is concerned, any type of win will do. The Yankees are in the midst of one of their longest stints of the season without an off-day, so they will be flying back to New York before getting right back to work with a series against the Royals starting tomorrow night. Michael Pineda will be on the mound, and hopefully, another winning streak will be in the works.