‘Domeball’ bites Yankees

I can hear Billy Martin screaming from the grave. No Yankees manager detested domed ballparks more than Martin, who wailed against the facilities in Seattle and Minneapolis during his time as the skipper.

I recall in 1988 when the Yankees ended spring training with two exhibition games at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, and Billy was so critical of the place he nearly got thrown out of the country.

Think of how much he would have hated this Yankees trip, eight games under domes in Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla. Billy never managed in either Rogers Centre or Tropicana Field, but you can be sure he would have had little good to say about either place.

Martin might have given Toronto a break because the roof there is retractable. In fact, all four games the Yankees played there on the recent stop were with the roof open.

What infuriated Martin about most domes was having to play on an artificial surface and trying to track pop ups and fly balls against a roof. The Metrodome roof particularly bothered Martin because it was clear, similar to the one at the Trop.

Too often, routine fly balls get lost by fielders and fall free, such as the ball Rays pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano to center field that Curtis Granderson could not find. It dropped for a single that cost the Yankee an important out and loaded the bases with one out.

Boone Logan compounded the problem by making an error on a high chopper to the mound by another pinch hitter, Elliot Johnson, that allowed the tying run to score. Johnny Damon put the Rays ahead for good with a sacrifice fly. The runs were charged to Bartolo Colon and while they were unearned they were sufficient to stick him with an undeserving losing decision.

Coming back from his worst outing of the season when he allowed eight runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning, Colon looked more like the Comeback Player of the Year candidate he has resembled most of the year. He gave up three hits and two walks and had a season-high nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

It was an important game for Colon, who was 0-2 with an 11.37 ERA over two prior starts and had the Yankees wondering if he would whither in the second half. If they can get the same kind of effort from Freddy Garcia Wednesday night, the Yankees can breathe a sigh of relief over the aging starters.

Robinson Cano ended a four-game power drought by the Yankees with his 16th home run, a two-run shot in the third, but Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson retired the next 12 batters and pitched out of trouble in the seventh by setting down Derek Jeter on an infield grounder that stranded runners on second and third.

Brett Gardner continued his torrid hitting since the All-Star break with two more hits. Since play resumed after the All-Star Game, Gardner is batting .591 with three doubles, one RBI, six stolen bases and six runs in 22 at-bats.

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