I previously alluded to the idea that the Rays had two reasons to go out Tuesday night, and play like they still have a chance in September:
- To play the role of spoilers.
- To end the season on a strong, high note.
If Tuesday night’s 4-3 win against the Yankees was indicative of anything, it would be the former. New York entered Yankee Stadium with a 1.5% chance of making the playoffs, knowing full well that they would have to go on a ridiculous run in order to make up ground in the Wildcard race. The Rays did their damnedest to make sure that didn’t happen.
James Loney put the Rays on the board two outs into the first inning. Kuroda threw a first pitch fastball on the inner third of the plate, which Loney crushed into the second deck in right field.
Loney struck again in the third inning after Ryan Hanigan, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria had all singled give the Rays a 2-0 lead. The Rays first baseman poked a sinker on the outside corner up the middle for an RBI single to put Tampa Bay up by three.
Kuroda’s night was done in the fourth after he gave up three more singles to Kevin Kiermaier, Hanigan and Zobrist. The trifecta produced the fourth run of the night — the one that proved to be the difference in the game.
While Chris Archer was perfect through the front three innings, Jacoby Ellsbury attempted to change the narrative by sending a homer to the short porch in right for the Yankees first hit and run of the game — a sad turn of events after Archer barely missed with a 2-2 backdoor slider.
Archer began to unravel in the fifth inning after he led off the inning by hitting Chase Headly with an errant fastball. Ichiro Suzuki responded by slapping a single through the left side of the infield, moving Headly to second and bringing Stephen Drew to the plate. Drew followed with a blooped fly ball into short center field, just in front of Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier — as he’s wont to do, — charged in at full speed and bobbled his pickup. Thankfully for the Rays, the Yankees third base coach played his call conservatively and held Headly at third — consequently loading the bases with no outs.
Chris Young, looking to give the Yankees a fighting chance, plated a pair of runs on another grounder through the infield, this time to left. Despite Matt Joyce’s horrible throw home (which allowed the two runs to score), he got a chance to earn his proverbial keep on the very next play. With Drew at second, Ellsbury sent a single to left. Joyce quickly fielded the play and let loose with a throw home to beat the runner at the plate. Hanigan initially set up on the inside of the baseline, though he changed his location in relation to the base path as soon as he saw Joyce’s throw bouncing home. It just so happened that he was set up to block the runner illegally, well ahead of the charging Drew who was called out at the plate. While Joe Girardi challenged the call, it was upheld.
With a runner still on second and only one out, The Captain sent a liner toward right field…and right into a double play to end the inning. A wise man once coined the phrase that would be applicable, ahem…Womp Womp.
Archer’s night was done one out into the seventh inning after Ichiro glanced a single off the righties foot. Maddon called upon Grant Balfour to get the final two outs of the inning — a tenuous task at best.
Though Archer wasn’t great, he was better than his previous two starts. I’ll gladly take three earned runs over six-plus any day of the week.
Grant Balfour, somewhat surprisingly, put together his fifth consecutive clean outing — though it wasn’t pretty. Ian Malinowski (of DRaysBay) best detailed what happened next,
He (Balfour) immediately missed badly with a fastball in the dirt, but Ryan Hanigan speared it. The next pitch was a curve, also in the dirt, and Ichiro easily stole second. Ichiro saw an opportunity to get to third with less than two outs, and he got a great jump off second. He would have made it easily, but Stephen Drew swung at a 2-0 curve down and away that he probably should have taken, flying it to short left field. Wil Myers bounced his throw badly, but it didn’t matter. Easy double play to end the inning.
Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee did what they do in the eighth and ninth innings to close out the game. To be fair, McGee did get a little help from Kiermaier:
The New What Next
The Rays will attempt to close the gap to four games within .500 Wednesday night with Jake Odorizzi on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Chris Capuano. Tampa Bay faced the 36 year-old Capuano (2-3, 4.46 ERA) twice out of the pen this season when he was with the Red Sox. He threw 2-1/3 clean innings of work, though Tampa Bay blasted him to the tune of six runs (five earned) in his previous 4-1/3 innings of work. Per Fangraphs, in Capuano’s four starts with the Yankees, his changeup has generated 63.3% ground balls, and his slider, 55.6%. The change piece has also coaxed 26.4% swinging strikes in that time. Those rates are significantly different from those of his prior stints, whether from earlier this season or in recent campaigns. He’s had over arching problems with the home run, and hard-hit balls in general, but he’s enjoyed some better outcomes since moving to the Bronx. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 9/10/14 Starting Lineup