Those pesky New York Yankees keep biting at the Rays, but the Rays giveth and the Rays taketh away. They edged out an 86 victory at the new Yankee Stadium to complete the twogame sweep and earn their first threegame winning streak this season.
The Rays were off to an early 40 lead thanks to home runs from Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria behind Jeff Niemann, who mysteriously left the game after just over three innings. He walked four Yankees without recording a strikeout, so his 78 pitches in that short timespan just might have done it. Lance Cormier came in and the game was tied on his watch before Ben Zobrist (Mr. Timing) did it again, blasting a home run off Andy Pettitte to make it 54 Rays.
After another run doubled the lead, Dan Wheeler got the first two outs in the eighth inning before a Derek Jeter single brought up Johnny Damon. On one pitch, Damon tied the game with a home run into the second deck. This reminded me of the Damon of 2006 who reached the upper deck so often you would think he had been taking some of Roger Clemens’ cocktail. Regardless, the game was tied at six.
Mariano Rivera entered in the ninth inning, and knowing his lackluster track record in tie games, I thought maybe we still had a chance to win right then and there. Carl Crawford stepped in and forced a ninepitch plate appearance before blasting a cut fastball down the right field line and gone for his first home run of the year. Talk about picking your spots, there is another classic example. Speak of the devil, Longoria followed with his own moonshot to left field for his second home run of the game and tenth of the season. This guy once again proves that he is a primetime player.
Brian Shouse wisely came in for the ninth inning’s first two hitters, inducing weak ground balls back to him by Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano. With switch hitter Nick Swisher due up, Joe Maddon called on Joe Nelson, who used his trademark vulcan changeup and wellplaced fastball to strike Swisher out. Rays win, 86, and take the sweep.
The Rays hit six home runs as a team, including leading off the game (Bartlett) and the two off Rivera. It was the first time since July of 1998 that Rivera had allowed two home runs in one game.
Ben Zobrist and Gabe Kapler (starting in place of B.J. Upton) each stole their second bases of the season, picking up for the allpowerful Crawford.
This game and the previous two have finally proven that the Rays still have the competitive fight and lategame drive that they had in 2008. It was as good as dead for the first few weeks, but now the life is springing from the team, as may the hope from our fans. As Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy (good broadcast team, by the way) alluded to following this game, these will be the ones the Rays look at as the turning point at season’s end. These were nothing short of huge victories in epic battles, and the Yankees have mercifully been taken down a few pegs while the Rays climb that ladder.
Next is an equally important showdown in Boston as we meet the Red Sox yet again. James Shields can handle Brad Penny, so we better win that first game. They beat Penny once already and have now won six out of eight games, so why not? Until next time, go Rays.