Garcia start bright sign in dim loss
Freddy Garcia got a big favor from his teammates Monday night when the Yankees scored two runs in the first inning off Rays lefthander Matt Moore. For a pitcher making his first start in more than two months, Garcia needed all the support he could get. Taking the mound with your team already in front feels good to any starting pitcher.
Although he would eventually surrender that lead, Garcia gave the Yankees the boost they were hoping for from the righthander who returned to the rotation to spell CC Sabathia, who is on the disabled list because of a strained left groin. Garcia did a good job in long relief since he went to the bullpen after a horrendous start at Yankee Stadium April 28 against the Tigers.
The Rays don’t present an imposing lineup. Two regulars were batting below .200 for a Tampa Bay club that has a .232 team batting average, which is next to last in the American League. Garcia allowed five hits and did not walk a batter, but the Rays were able to tie the score on solo home runs by B.J. Upton in the fourth inning and Carlos Pena in the sixth.
Garcia was nearing his 75-pitch limit when Pena was due up in the sixth. The Rays first baseman had never homered off Garcia and had only four hits in 41 career at-bats (.098) against him. A move to lefthander Clay Rapada may have been in order, but Garcia was throwing well enough to convince manager Joe Girardi to go after him, a decision that backfired.
Nevertheless, it was a solid 5 1/3-inning outing for Garcia, an encouraging sign that he can make a contribution to the rotation at a time when Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are no longer in it. Garcia could make one more start before the All-Star break next week. The Yankees have an open date Thursday, but they also have a split-admission doubleheader Saturday at Boston, so it is likely that Garcia will stay on turn.
Garcia’s start was about the only positive the Yankees could take from the game, a 4-3 loss that marked their eighth consecutive defeat at Tropicana Field. Time was when the Yanks were hard to beat when traveling to Tampa Bay, their spring training site and home away from home, but they have not won at the Trop since last July.
A rare fielding misplay by first baseman Mark Teixeira in the eighth accounted for the deciding run. The Yankees looked as if they would win a game without hitting a home run (they are 1-14 in those situations) and even took a 3-2 lead in the seventh without a hit.
One inning later, however, the Rays struck back against the Yankees’ bullpen. A walk and a wild pitch by Boone Logan had Girardi summoning David Robertson, who gave up a double to pinch hitter Brooks Conrad that tied the score.
The killer play came next, a hard ground ball by Elliot Johnson that bounced in front of the bag at first base and somehow skidded under the outstretched glove of Teixeira for his first error in 99 games dating to last July. Conrad scored easily, and Fernando Rodney handled three Yankees pinch hitters in the ninth for his 23rd save.
The series had been looked upon as the Yankees’ chance to bury the Rays, who entered play 7 ½ games out of first place in the AL East and with a team offense that is next to last in the league. As long as the Yanks’ jinx at St. Pete continues, however, the Rays won’t be going away.