Results tagged ‘ Ichiro Suzuki ’
There was not too much scoreboard watching for the Yankees Saturday. The only game other than theirs against the Giants in the afternoon that involved the clubs ahead of them in the wild-card hunt was the Orioles at St. Pete where the Rays won, 5-1. The Indians, Rangers and Royals were all scheduled at night.
So the best scoreboard watching for the Yankees was their own as inning by inning Ivan Nova kept tossing zeroes at the distant cousins from San Francisco. The righthander, who has been the Yankees’ best starting pitcher in the second half, finished up with a six-hit shutout, his second complete-game blanking of the season. This one, a 6-0 final, was clutch because of the timing when the Yankees simply have to win every game they play.
“If we play like we did today, there is no reason why we can’t win all seven games we have left,” Alfonso Soriano said.
Soriano ranks right up there with Nova as the most important Yankees post the All-Star Game. Sori smacked out another home run Saturday. That gives him 17 in 52 games with the Yankees, the same total he had in 93 games with the Cubs. He also raised his RBI total to 101 in becoming only the fifth player in history to drive in 50 or more runs each for two different clubs in the same season. The others were Matt Holliday with the Athletics and Cardinals in 2009, Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2008, Carlos Beltran with the Royals and Astros in 2004 and David Justice with the Indians and Yankees in 2000.
Similar to what Justice did for the Yanks 13 years ago; Soriano has re-ignited the team’s offense with 50 RBI in 52 games and 36 RBI in 26 games at Yankee Stadium.
“He has been special since he got here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it is because he is excited to be here. He had fond memories of being here before and enjoyed it so much.”
Soriano’s 34th home run of the season overall was icing on the cake Saturday. The way Nova was pitching the three runs he got in the fourth were plenty sufficient. They came essentially from the bottom third of the order against Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong on singles by Mark Reynolds and Brendan Ryan and a walk to Chris Stewart that loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki, an infield out by Alex Rodriguez and a two-out single by Robinson Cano scored all the runners. Eduardo Nunez contributed a two-run homer in the fourth, two innings before Soriano connected.
In the meantime, Nova (9-5) held the Giants to six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in an efficient, 108-pitch effort. Nova had been the American League Pitcher of the Month for August but was 0-1 with a 7.07 ERA in his first three starts in September before Saturday’s gem. He had better command of his breaking ball and a good sinker that resulted in 14 groundouts. Splendid defense up the middle by Ryan at shortstop made this the kind of day to get ground balls.
So the Yankees pulled even with Baltimore again in the wild-card standings and would pay close attention to the night games to see where they stand heading into Sunday, which will be a special day for Mariano Rivera and they hope for the rest of the team as well.
The Yankees will pay homage to Mariano Rivera, Major League Baseball’s career saves leader and the acknowledged greatest closing relief pitcher of all time, during the club’s last homestand that begins Friday night against the Giants. San Francisco will make its first visit to the current Yankee Stadium in the third regular-season series between the clubs that have been World Series opponents seven times.
Six of their Series meetings occurred when the Giants were also based in New York in upper Manhattan across the Harlem River from the Stadium in the Polo Grounds where all the games were played in both 1921 and 1922 when the Yankees were tenants. The Giants won the first two series, but the Yankees came back to win the next five, starting with 1923, the year the original Stadium opened. The Bombers also triumphed in 1936, 1937, 1951 and 1962, the latter being the only one between them after the Giants moved to the Bay Area.
Prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game WCBS Radio voice John Sterling will preside over a ceremony in which Ichiro Suzuki will donate a jersey from his 4,000th-hit game Aug. 21 to representatives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, president Jeff Idelson and vice president of communications and education Brad Horn.
The first 10,000 people aged 14 and younger in attendance for Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game will receive a Limited-Edition TY Beanie Buddy named “Closer” in honor of Rivera presented by DKNY. The limited-edition TY Beanie Buddy also includes a Mariano Rivera commemorative patch sewn on its chest.
Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game, which is sold out, will feature a pregame ceremony honoring Mo for his landmark career. Additionally, all fans in attendance Sunday will receive a Mariano Rivera “Thank You Fans” Photo presented by Yankees-Steiner Collectibles. Fans attending the game are strongly encouraged to be in their seats by 12:30 p.m. to enjoy the ceremonies. Tickets for this game may be purchased at Yankees Ticket Exchange (www.yankees.com/yte), the safe and secure online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games.
The Rays come to the Stadium for the home series finale Tuesday through Thursday, Sept. 24-26.
The first 18,000 people in attendance for Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game will receive a Mariano Rivera Bobblehead presented by AT&T. This game is also part of the Yankees ticket special calendar as a Military Personnel Ticket Special, Tuesday Night Ticket Special and as an E-Saver Game. Please visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials and http://www.yankees.com/esaver for more information.
Wednesday’s 7:05 p.m. game will feature a Yankees Charlie Brown Bobblehead presented by MetLife given to the first 18,000 people in a attendance. This game is also part of the Yankees ticket special calendar as a Military Personnel Ticket Special, Student Game and as an E-Saver Game. Please visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials and http://www.yankees.com/esaver for more information.
Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. game, which is sold out, will mark the Yankees’ final regular season game of the season at the Stadium. Tickets for this game may also be purchased at Yankees Ticket Exchange (www.yankees.com/yte).
Ticket specials available for select games during the homestand:
E-Saver Games (Sept. 24 and 25) – Fans can register at http://www.yankees.com/esaver to receive e-mail ticket offers for the E-Saver Games available only to Yankees e-mail subscribers.
Military Personnel Ticket Special (Sept. 24 and 25) – Active military members can present their military identification card at designated Yankee Stadium Ticket Windows and receive one complimentary ticket in the Grandstand Level or Bleachers, or purchase one half-price ticket in other areas in the Stadium excluding the Legends Suite, Champions Suite, Delta SKY360° Suite, Jim Beam Suite and Audi Yankees Club. Tickets may be purchased only on the day of the game, beginning two hours before the scheduled start time of the game at Stadium Ticket Windows, adjacent to Gate 4.
Student Games (Sept. 25) – Students who present their valid high school or college ID cards when purchasing tickets can receive one half-price ticket in designated seating locations. Tickets may be purchased only on the day of the game on Sept. 25 at Stadium Ticket Windows, adjacent to Gate 4.
Tuesday Night Games Ticket Special (Sept. 24) – Fans can purchase tickets in select areas of the Grandstand Level and receive up to 25 percent off the advance ticket price. Tickets may be purchased in advance or on the day of the game.
Visit http://www.yankees.com/tickets for tickets and more information.
If you didn’t think Sunday’s game was important to the Yankees, consider this: Mariano Rivera was called on for a six-out save. This was something out of postseason play, which is what the Yankees are hopeful for qualifying for this season.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate in using Mo for such a stretch. One, it is that time of year and, two, what would you save Rivera for? As the skipper said after the game, noting that the career saves leader will retire at the end of the season, “He’s at a point where he’s not saving anything for 2014.”
The only problem is that it didn’t work. Rivera blew the save opportunity for the seventh time this season and the second time in this series when he allowed a leadoff home run to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning that made the score 3-3. Perhaps the only people at Yankee Stadium who thought the ball was a homer were those seated in the first two rows of seats in right field. To everybody else, Rivera and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, it seemed as if it were a high fly ball that would eventually become an out instead of going out.
In the bottom of that inning, however, Rivera would have a smile on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon after Suzuki scored from third base on a wild pitch by Brandon Workman that clinched a 4-3 victory.
Eight runs were not enough Thursday night. Eight runs were not enough Friday night. Nine runs were not enough Saturday. As it turned out, four runs were sufficient for the Yankees Sunday.
The ninth-inning run was an Ichiro special. He singled to left-center field with one out and then quickly moved into scoring position with a steal of second base. Vernon Wells’ flyout to right field was deep enough for Suzuki to scamper to third base. Any battery has to be careful about a wild pitch or a passed ball with a player as quick as Ichiro on third base. There was no doubt that when the pitch by Workman eluded catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia that the Yankee would get the run they needed to avoid a four-game sweep by Boston and give them some momentum headed to Baltimore for another challenging, four-game set against an Orioles club that is battling for the same prize as the Yankees, a wild-card postseason berth.
“Anybody could have made it,” Ichiro said of the winning run, “anybody with a good read.”
Well, that does not just happen with anybody but with a player of Suzuki’s instinct on the bases. This was the first time the Yankees had a walk-off victory on a wild pitch since Sept. 27, 1977 against the Indians and Jim Bibby when the run was scored by Thurman Munson, who made up for lack of speed with an abundance of smarts.
The game might have turned into a disaster if not for that play. The Yankees had overcome a 1-0 deficit to Jon Lester, who pitched eight strong innings, to take a 3-1 lead behind Hiroki Kuroda, who threw 117 pitches over six innings. Shawn Kelley worked the seventh without issue before the strains of “Enter Sandman” were heard surprisingly at the start of the eighth.
Rivera had not pitched for two days, so Girard felt confident that he could use him for a lengthier period. Mo had the same confidence and said he will feel the same way Monday night at Camden Yards.
“If they need me, I’ll be there,” Rivera said. “I have to be ready for any situation. We’re trying to get to the playoffs.”
That pursuit can often find players doing odd things. In the second inning with runners on first and second and none out, Mark Reynolds tried to bunt them over and fouled out to the catcher, the same Mark Reynolds who is usually feast or famine with his home run or strikeout mentality.
“We’ll let that go for now,” Girardi said, clearly indicated that Reynolds was bunting on his own and something he will be told never to do again.
The Yankees failed to score that inning, but Reynolds atoned for his mistake by driving in the Yankees’ first run of the game in the fourth with a booming double to center field. A clutch, two-out single by Robinson Cano an inning later gave the Yankees their first lead in the series since that 8-3 spread entering the seventh inning Friday night that the bullpen flushed.
The Red Sox cut it to 3-2 with a run in the sixth on a double by David Ortiz and two infield outs. One-run leads are usually as good as gold for Rivera, but he has proved a bit more vulnerable in his final season. He last blew as many as seven saves in 2001.
Don’t be surprised, however, that if the Yankees need him to nail down a victory Monday night that, in his words, Mo will be there.
Do you recognize any of these names?
Roxy Walters, Wally Pipp, Lee Magee, Frank Gilhooley, Hugh High, Paddy Baumann.
Well, there is a good chance you may have heard of Pipp. He was the Yankees first baseman who came out of the lineup because of illness in 1925 and was replaced by Lou Gehrig, who only played every day after that for 14 years.
The other guys were all teammates of Pipp on the Yankees of 1916, which was the last time before Thursday night that six different players had a stolen base for them in a single game. Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, Lyle Overbay, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells each stole a base in the Yankees’ 9-8, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox.
That tied a franchise record for most players stealing at least one base in a game. It was the ninth time it happened but the first since Wally and his mates did it May 31, 1916 (Memorial Day) in the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics at the Polo Grounds.
How many big rallies begin with a walk? It is a rhetorical question. I am not looking it up. Leave us just say a lot.
So when Ichiro Suzuki walked to lead off the seventh inning for the Yankees Thursday night it hardly seemed dramatic considering the score at the time was 7-2 Red Sox. But as Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch used to say famously during his managerial days, “Oh, them bases on balls.”
Perhaps Red Sox manager John Farrell had similar thoughts. If he didn’t, he should have. The leadoff walk has an ominous look to it regardless of the score. Suzuki’s stroll to first base was just the ominous sign the Yankees needed to get started toward a six-run rally that turned the tables in the game, yet another startling crooked-number inning that the Yanks have constructed regularly during their offensive renaissance of the past month.
In the blink of an eye, Ichiro was standing on third base after a pinch single by Vernon Wells chased Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who departed with a five-run lead but by inning’s end was still winless in his career against the Yankees.
Brett Gardner greeted lefthander Matt Thornton with a single to score Ichiro. With Derek Jeter at bat, Wells shook up the Red Sox with a steal of third, one of the Yanks’ season-high six swipes in the game. Thornton walked Jeter, which loaded the bases for Robinson Cano, who hit a bases-loaded double earlier in the game. This time he hit into a fielder’s choice but another run scored.
Alfonso Soriano also did an about-face from previous at-bats. Boston used an exaggerated shift against him all night. Twice he hit into it and flied out. This time against righthander Junichi Tazawa Sori poked a single to the right side for an RBI single that made the score 7-5. The Red Sox’ collective collar was tightening.
Curtis Granderson doubled to make it a one-run game. After Alex Rodriguez struck out, Lyle Overbay pushed the Yankees into the lead with a ground single to right for two more runs. 8-7 Yanks, and what made it even cooler was that the situation was set up for them out of the bullpen with David Robertson in the eighth and Mariano Rivera in the ninth.
Robertson did his part with a hitless, two-strikeout eighth. In the ninth, Rivera came within one strike of registering a save that would have matched his uniform No. 42. But he walked – there’s that stat again – Mike Napoli on a full count. Pinch runner Quintin Berry stunned everybody by breaking for second base on Mo’s first pitch to Stephen Drew. The throw from Austin Romine, just into the game behind the plate, bounced in front of Jeter and went into left-center field as Berry wound up on third base.
Rivera’s save and the Yankees’ lead disappeared when Drew hit a flare single to right for a single that knotted the score. Career save No. 650 would have to wait for Rivera, whose blown save was his sixth of the season.
Ivan Nova was the American League Pitcher of the Month for August. He is off to a rocky start in contention for AL Pitcher of the Month for September.
The righthander, who was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA last month, made it through only four innings Thursday night and left the game trailing due to Will Middlebrooks’ home run into the second deck in left field that unlocked a 2-2 score.
So much for all that excitement that was forecast about the Yankees-Red Sox showdown. It was snore, snore for a couple of innings. Things got lively in the third inning, however, as Yankee Stadium began to rock ‘n roll like the good, old Yankees-Red Sox days.
Boston broke the silence in the top of the inning with two runs off Nova, who had trouble keeping his fastball down in the strike zone or getting his curveball over. Ryan Lavarnway and Middlebrooks reached him for singles, and Jacoby Ellsbury put the Red Sox on the board with a double over the fence to right-center.
The Yankees kept the infield back and conceded another run when Shane Victorino grounded out. Dustin Pedroia did, too, but after walking David Ortiz intentionally Nova walked Daniel Nava quite unintentionally on four pitches to load the bases. Nova went to a full count on Mike Napoli before getting him on a called third strike.
After the top half of that inning awoke Red Sox fans, it was Yankees fans’ turn in the bottom half against Jake Peavy, who had lost all four of his previous starts against the Bombers. Ichiro Suzuki got the Yankees’ first hit on a single to center and then promptly stole second base. Chris Stewart made the second out on a popup, but Brett Gardner kept the inning alive with a bunt single.
Peavy got himself in trouble with a walk to Derek Jeter that filled the bases for hot-hitting Robinson Cano, who whacked the first pitch off the wall in right field for a two-run double that tied the score. The Red Sox put one of those exaggerated shifts on Alfonso Soriano, who hit into it and flied out to left field.
Nova’s brief outing was a decided disappointment. The Yankees had been counting on him to continue his hot hand and get them off to a good start in the four-game set against the Red Sox. Nova had pitched into the seventh inning and higher in 11 of his previous 12 starts but ran his pitch count up to nearly 100 (96) through the fourth.
Preston Claiborne, recently recalled from Triple A Scranton, did not help matter when he faced five batters in the fifth inning and got none of them out. Shane Victorino started Claiborne off with a home run to left. Pedroia and Ortiz followed with singles before Nava walked to fill the bases. An infield single by Napoli and an infield out brought in two more runs.
In assessing the explosive offense after Friday night’s 8-5 victory, Yankees manager Joe Girardi added, “And let’s get the pitchers right, too. We have to click on all cylinders, basically. One night, we might score eight runs. The next night, we may not. And that’s when the pitchers have got to pick up the hitters.”
Give the skipper a swami turban.
Ivan Nova’s three-hit, complete-game shutout Saturday was just the kind of performance the manager had talked about. For a while there, it looked as if the Yankees’ run in the first inning on doubles by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano off Scott Feldman was all they would get before Cano made the score 2-0 with a home run into the right field bleachers off lefthander Troy Patton in the eighth.
Nova was certainly uplifted by Cano’s 25th homer of the year. He hoped Girard would let him go out for the ninth inning and not be tempted to bring in Mariano Rivera. The second run helped.
“I told the guys I don’t want a 1-0 game; get me another run,” Nova said. “I’m happy that Joe gave me the opportunity.”
Nova earned the chance to finish this one out. He walked one batter and hit two but allowed only three hits. The third was a leadoff single in the ninth inning by Nate McLouth on a chopper to the mound that Nova knocked down but could not recover in time to throw him out. And Girardi still stayed with Nova.
“If it had been a walk, it might have been different,” Girardi said. “But he got a ground ball. And what we needed after that was another ground ball.”
Nova did not get another grounder, however. McLouth getting on added drama to the situation because the third hitter due up that inning was the major-league home run leader, Chris Davis. One swing could have tied the score. After Manny Machado flied out to left, Davis had the Yankee Stadium crowd gasping when he hit a towering fly ball to right field.
That was when it was discovered that Ichiro Suzuki is pretty good at playing possum, which I though was strictly an American trait. Ichiro did not move at first, an indication that the ball was behind him and in the seats. Then after a tantalizingly long moment, he held his glove up over his head and made the catch on the warning track. Suzuki knew he was playing with the crowd.
“Humans want to come from a bad place to a good place,” he said. “Of course, you have to make the play.”
Unlike many of the 42,836 in attendance, Nova didn’t think the ball was going out. The look on Davis’ face told him that, a look that said, “I didn’t get it.” Catcher Chris Stewart said Davis hit the ball off the end of his bat, another good sign of the sinking movement on Nova’s fastball.
There was still another dangerous hitter to go, but Adam Jones’ line drive ended up in the glove of shortstop Derek Jeter.
“He picked up the hitters and the bullpen,” Girardi said of Nova, who won his fourth consecutive start in improving his record to 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
With CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda showing signs of fatigue and Phil Hughes winless in nearly two months, Nova has been the rotation’s savior in the second half. The Yankees will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon behind Andy Pettitte, who is also on a winning streak with three straight victories.
“The key to me for Nova is that he is keeping his fastball down in the zone,” Girardi said. “He has a good curve, but it is even better because he can keep hitters off balance with that fastball down in the zone.”
Girardi also gave Nova credit for “finding himself” during his time in the minor leagues last year and this following his 16-victory season in 2011. Nova agreed.
“I went to Tampa where I worked to do the things I needed to do to prove what kind of pitcher I can be,” Nova said.
It comes down to maturity. Nova was a pretty green kid when he surprised people in 2011. The league catches up to young pitchers if they are not careful, and Nova took his lumps. Saturday, he showed what kind of pitcher he can be.
It was an uplifting day for the Yankees, who jumped over Baltimore into third place in the American League East after a 47-game period since July 7 in fourth place and also positioned themselves ahead of Cleveland in the wild-card chase where they still trail Tampa Bay and Oakland, but as Girardi pointed out, “It sure beats four or five” teams ahead of them.
Let it be known that the Yankees are aware they reside on planet Earth. They played Friday night’s game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium with the fierce determination of a team aware of the obstacles facing them in their quest for a postseason berth.
“They would have to be on another planet not to know the importance of this stretch of games,” manager Joe Girardi said before the opener of a 10-game homestand.
Girardi did not hesitate to remind them anyway with the way he managed, which was akin to it being Game 7 of the World Series. The 8-5 victory before a boisterous Friday night crowd of 45,169 was an ideal way to get this pivotal period of the season started for the Yankees.
The skipper pulled CC Sabathia, who gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, after 86 pitches, then played mix and match with his bullpen in an effort to protect a lead that his starting pitcher failed to do once and threatened to do twice, which has been an unfortunate custom of his this season.
This was a weird one. Sabathia and Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez traded zeroes for three innings before balls started getting whacked all over the yard and over the fences. Home run leader Chris Davis singled in the first run of the game in the top of the fourth, but a two-run, opposite-field home run by Alfonso Soriano in the bottom half put the Yankees ahead.
Danny Valencia answered that with a two-run homer in the fifth to regain the lead for Baltimore. The Yankees went gangbusters in their turn at-bat that inning and retrieved the lead by putting up a five-spot and chasing Gonzalez. The Yanks began the inning with four consecutive extra-base hits – doubles by Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds for one run, Ichiro Suzuki’s first home run in 132 at-bats for two more runs and a double by Austin Romine. A single by Brett Gardner and a walk to Derek Jeter loaded the bases and hastened Gonzalez’s departure. Robinson Cano greeted left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland with a single to left to drive in two runs.
Sabathia gave a run back in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled and scored on a two-out single by Nick Markakis. That was it for Girardi, who made the move to Shawn Kelley. Valencia singled Markakis to third, but Kelley got out of the inning without further damage. With one out in the seventh, Girardi brought in lefthander Boone Logan to face lefty-hitting Nate McLouth, who flied out, and then righthander David Robertson against righty-swinging Manny Machado, who grounded out.
The Yankees added to their lead with a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Alex Rodriguez. They lost a shot at another run on poor base running by Alfonso Soriano. He and A-Rod pulled off a double steal of second and third with one out. Against an over-shift on Granderson that had the third baseman playing in the shortstop hole, Soriano could have walked home from third on Grandy’s push bunt toward third. Sori held up for some reason and motioned back to third, but Rodriguez was nearing that base. Pitcher Francisco Rodriguez had fielded the ball by that time and threw to catcher Taylor Teegarden for an easy tag-out of Soriano.
Girardi was hit with several questions after the game about why Granderson bunted in that spot as if it were a dumb play. I thought it was a terrific move on his part. The defense was giving him practically the entire left side of the infield. Why not drop one down and get a free run?
Robertson handled the eighth inning without fault and turned the ball over to Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Enough said.
Girardi had indicated the importance of this series with the announcement before the game that Phil Hughes would be pushed back to Monday night against the White Sox so that Andy Pettitte could start Sunday against the Orioles. The reason for that should be self-explanatory. Girardi had a hunch about Reynolds in starting him at first base against a right-handed pitcher instead of Lyle Overbay. Reynolds had three hits one an RBI. He was thrown out on the bases twice, but no one said he was Rickey Henderson.
So the Blue Jays did not roll over and play dead for a change. That was a tough wake-up call for the Yankees who lost ground in the race for a postseason berth. The Yankees have had their way with the Jays this year but not Monday night as Toronto emerged victorious against the Yanks for the first time since April 21 and only the second time in 14 meetings.
R.A. Dickey, who lost his previous two starts against the Yankees this year, had the upper hand this time with 6 1/3 sound innings. The first-inning run he yielded was not earned due to a passed ball by catcher Josh Thole. The other run Dickey allowed, in the fifth, was quite earned since it came on Alex Rodriguez’s 650th career home run.
Brett Gardner also reached a milestone in the fifth inning with a two-out single that was the 500th hit of his major-league career. The Yankees did not have much else to celebrate offensively. The Jays bullpen shut down the Yanks for 2 2/3 innings with Casey Janssen notching his 24th save.
Derek Jeter returned to the lineup but had a quiet night going 0-for-3 with a walk.
Phil Hughes watched his record fall to an unsightly 4-13 with a 4.91 ERA as he failed to pitch the minimum number of innings – five – to qualify for a winning decision for the 10th time in 25 starts this year. Hughes gave up the 1-0 lead the Yankees gave him in the first two innings later and was knocked out in a three-run Toronto fifth that was fueled in part by a rare error from 10-time Gold Glove winner Ichiro Suzuki.
Hughes nearly worked out a second-inning jam, but Kevin Pillar poked a soft single to center field that tied the score. A leadoff walk to Jose Reyes in the third was asking for trouble. Edwin Encarnacion singled sharply to left to score Reyes, who had advanced to second on a bunt, that gave the Blue Jays the lead.
A-Rod’s homer got the Yanks even again, but the game got away from Hughes in the fifth. He gave up a double to Reyes with one out and a single to Ryan Goins. Reyes was held at third, which gave Hughes a chance to get out of the inning without a run scoring. Encarnacion lifted a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to score Reyes but was more damaging when Ichiro dropped the ball while leaping on the warning track.
Instead of two outs and a runner on first, the Blue Jays had a run in, one out and runners on first and third. Adam Lind doubled down the right field line to score Goins and after an intentional walk to Brett Lawrie loaded the bases Moises Sierra delivered another run with a sacrifice fly.
Lefthander David Huff took over at that point and was one of the few highlights for the Yanks. He struck out Thole to put an end to the fifth and tacked on three more scoreless innings with four strikeouts. It was an important contribution because Huff kept manager Joe Girardi from having to use several relievers to complete a game in which his starter made an early exit.
Girardi said after the game that there were no plans to remove Hughes from the rotation despite the righthander’s troubles. Hughes is winless with a 5.64 ERA in his past nine starts since July 2 and is 1-9 with a 5.32 ERA over his past 13 starts.
With the Athletics winning at Detroit, the Yankees fell 4 ½ games behind for the second wild-card berth.
CC Sabathia has had a nasty habit this season of giving up leads. That virus struck him again Saturday night at Tropicana Field at a time the Yankees could least afford it. This was a game that fit the must-win category with Boston and Oakland both winning and the Yanks trying to stretch their winning series streak to five. Instead, they will take the field Sunday in an attempt salvage one game in the three-game set against the first-place Rays.
Paired against fellow former American League Cy Young Award winner David Price for the ninth time, Sabathia actually had the upper hand for five innings. He held the Rays to one hit, a two-out double by longtime nemesis Evan Longoria in the first inning, and a walk to that point. CC also made an outstanding defensive play to get the last out of the third inning by fielding a chopper with his back to the plate and firing a laser beam to first base.
The Yankees gave Sabathia a 2-0 lead in the fifth by using three singles and a walk to put a dent in Price. After that, however, the Yanks had only one more base runner – Curtis Granderson with a one-out double in the seventh – so their offense was standing still as the Rays made their move.
Then came the sixth inning and everything fell apart for the big guy. Sam Fuld, the 9-hole hitter barely batting over .200, led off with a single through the middle. Sabathia temporarily lost the plate by walking Desmond Jennings on four pitches and falling behind 2-0 in the count to Ben Zobrist, who later in the at-bat drilled a 3-1 fastball to left-center for a two-run double. CC then had to deal with Longoria, who singled home Zobrist to give the Rays the lead. Longoria raised his career average against Sabathia to .396 with six doubles and six home runs.
“I lost my command,” Sabathia told reporters. “I tried to nibble, and it cost us the game. One bad inning; I felt like I couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Sabathia departed in the seventh after allowing yet another hit to Fuld with one out. Preston Claiborne prevented Fuld from scoring but the next inning had no more success against Longoria than did Sabathia. The Rays third baseman crushed a 1-2 slider to center field for his 27th home run that gave Fernando Rodney (30th save) some insurance in the ninth as he closed it out for his 30th save in 37 tries.
Price (8-5) is now 6-1 in head-to-head matchups against Sabathia with the Rays winning seven of the nine games. The lefthander missed 44 games while on the 15-day disabled list because of a left triceps strain. Since returning from the DL July 2, Price is 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA. He seemed to lost faith in his fastball in the fifth inning and was touched for singles by Alex Rodriguez and Vernon Wells off hanging sliders. Mark Reynolds foiled Rays manager Joe Maddon’s overshift with a single to the right side to load the bases. The Yankees’ runs came on a walk to Austin Romine and an infield out by Ichiro Suzuki.
The Rays maintained their percentage-points edge over the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Yankees dropped seven games out of first place in the division race and 4 ½ games behind the Athletics for the second wild-card berth.