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Yankees 3, Rays 2: Bombers hold on for dear life, win game and the series

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I had complete faith in the Yankees this afternoon. Didn’t you?

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday afternoon’s game turned into a nail-biter. After racking up an early lead, the Yankees couldn’t tack on any insurance runs. The bullpen almost threw the game away, too. Thankfully the club held on just long enough to pick up the 3 - 2 victory.

Chris Archer is a very good pitcher — a great pitcher, even. That said, he hasn’t quite been himself in 2017. The Yankees took advantage of this in the second inning, scoring three runs off the right-hander. It all started with Starlin Castro, who snapped an 0 - 14 skid with a single to center field. He advanced to third and scored on a pair of singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Todd Frazier, respectively.

The comfy at-bats against Archer continued, as Austin Romine drew a one-out walk. That brought up Brett Gardner, whose single to left field plated two more runs. Chase Headley grounded into a double play to end the inning, but the Bombers wore Archer down. They collected a 3 - 0 lead in the process.

The Yankees had a chance to pile on Archer in the third, but as in recent cases, couldn’t land the knockout punch. They actually loaded the bases for the second straight inning. The Rays right-hander also looked fatigued; the Yankees worked lot of long counts against him. With two outs and Clint Frazier up, we could dream of a Red Thunder grand slam. Instead, Archer overpowered him. Frazier’s strikeout ended the threat.

For the rest of the game, the Yankees’ bats went quiet. That’s been an unfortunate theme of late. Their best chance to score came in the eighth inning against Sergio Romo, where they once again loaded the bases. Red Thunder had a chance to redeem himself, batting with the bases juiced and one out, but instead popped up down the first base line. Austin Romine, who for whatever reason batted for himself in this situation, struck out to end the inning.

The club also had a prime opportunity to pad their lead in the ninth. With runners on the corners and no outs, the Yankees failed to score a run. Gary Sanchez struck out while Didi Gregorius and Castro both flew out to end the inning. Rough finish for the offense. Yeesh.

On the other side of the coin, the pitching staff toughed out a victory. The first of the Rays’ runs came on a Kevin Kiermaier solo shot off Jaime Garcia, his second in as many days. The southpaw left a fastball up and over the plate, against which the Rays center field took a big hack. He deposited the ball into the right field seats to put Tampa Bay on the board.

Garcia labored through most of the start, as has been this case with every game since he joined the Yankees. Joe Girardi had a quick hook for the veteran, however, pulling him after 4.2 innings of one-run ball. Garcia was clearly displeased, but it’s tough to blame Girardi here. The left-hander struggles to turn over a lineup, and Evan Longoria loomed. September is not the time to protect feelings.

Following Garcia’s departure, Chad Green came on and did Chad Green things. What do I mean? To the visual:

Credit: Baseball Savant

Green threw strikes, and a lot of them. He retired all four batters he faced, including striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth. You could make the case that Green is the most important piece of New York’s mega-bullpen. I, for one, wouldn’t argue with that.

His work appeared more impressive as the rest of the relief corps struggled. Tommy Kahnle allowed two hits and needed a big double play to get out of the inning. Dellin Betances continued to battle his control issues, forcing Girardi to remove him with two outs in the eight inning.

The Yankees manager summoned Aroldis Chapman for the four-out save, giving fans an instant bout of heartburn. The former-turned-current closer got things started by issuing a walk to Steven Souza Jr., then allowed a RBI single to the red-hot Adeiny Hechavarria. A strikeout to Wilson Ramos ended the inning, but not before the Rays cut the Yankees’ lead to one.

The ninth didn’t come any easier, as Chapman walked Curt Casali to lead off the inning. Thankfully he settled in, striking the next three batters out. This game wasn’t the prettiest, but it counts just the same. With the Red Sox playing the Athletics tonight, I’ll take it.

The Yankees head home tomorrow, where they welcome the Orioles. It will be Masahiro Tanaka against Wade Miley. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.

Box Score