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Yankees 3, Rays 6: What is a shutdown inning?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira on the bench today, the Yankees offense was left with one legitimate hitter in Brett Gardner. Unfortunately, Gardner can't do everything by himself because if he could, three hits, two RBI, and excellent defense could have won this game. It's also too bad Vidal Nuno was pitching because, despite only allowing three earned runs, he just did not like having a lead today. Apparently he's never heard of a shutdown inning.

Gardner got things rolling in the first inning with a solo home run than matched his previous career-high of eight dingers, and it's only July 2! Too bad Nuno gave up the lead in the top of the third when he walked Ryan Hanigan and Ben Zobrist hit a double. With a man on third, Brian McCann completely missed catching a pitch and the passed ball brought a run home to tie the game.

It wasn't all bad for McCann today as he also singled, walked and hit a home run in the third to put the Yankees back on top, 2–1. Nuno didn't like that, though, so he coughed up the lead in the next half-inning when Logan Forsythe doubled and Sean Rodriguez hit a ball out to right field that Alfonso Soriano couldn't track down, and just like that the game was tied again. To make up for it, Soriano threw Rodriguez out at second trying to extend the hit to a double.

Gardner showed up again in the fourth inning with two on after Soriano singled and Ichiro walked. He hit a seeing-eye ground ball single past James Loney at first base to score a run and get the Yankees back on top once again. Because Nuno hates us all, he gave up a hit to Desmond Jennings and a double to Ben Zobrist. Brendan Guyer singled in a run to tie the game yet again, but Gardner, not wanting to lose this game, threw Zobrist out at the plate to save Nuno's skin.

Too bad this fun little scoring exchange didn't last. Nuno gave up a single in the sixth and was pulled, leaving the game after 5.0 IP, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. That sounds like a fairly decent line, but you can't continually give up runs right after your team scores. He wasn't getting killed out there, but he wasn't shutting anyone down; they were simply chipping away at him. He was replaced by the struggling Shawn Kelley, who promptly surrendered a two-run home run to Sean Rodriguez, making it a 5–3 game. But, hey, he struck out two batters!

The game stood there for a bit as Adam Warren kept the Rays to two hits and a walk while striking out a batter in 1.1 inning. David Huff allowed a hit, walked a guy and struck out one in 1.2 inning, but he ultimately ended up surrendering another run thanks to some shoddy defense from Yangervis Solarte and everyone's favorite backup first baseman, Kelly Johnson. There was no way the Yankees were going to come back from a three-run deficit in one inning, come on.

It's just amazing that they lost this one. The struggling Yankees offense didn't even hit that poorly -- Carlos Beltran had two hits, Brian Roberts had a single and a double, McCann had two hits and a walk. They just couldn't get anything going. Vidal Nuno giving up every lead they had also didn't help.

That's five losses in a row now, but rest easy folks, tomorrow is Tanaka Day!