When Alex Rodriguez slid across home plate, popped to his feet and clapped his hands together, the Yankees seemed to have something going. That fourth inning was a show of life from this team, a three-run rally that gave the Yankees a lead and gave them a chance to build some momentum. By the end of the game, that inning was a perfect backdrop for just how poorly they played the rest of the game.
Fourth inning: Three runs on four hits.
Rest of the game: No runs on one hit.
James Shields is very good, we all know this. So is Fernando Rodney. There’s the obligatory tip of the cap. Certainly good pitching had something to do with it, but this offense was lifeless today. There was productive energy in the fourth. Otherwise, there was nothing. The Yankees didn’t get another runner into scoring position until Eduardo Nunez pinch ran and stole second base in the ninth inning.
“We all gotta do what we do,” Alex Rodriguez said. “The way you come out of things like this is by doing the little things and if we focus on doing the little things and become master at those we don’t have to worry about big things. And hopefully we’re on our way.”
Fourth inning: Russell Martin hustled out a go-ahead infield single.
Rest of the game: Robinson Cano didn’t run on a dropped line drive and failed to dive on the winning hit.
That Martin hit really seemed to energize the Yankees bench, and it seemed to be a sign of just how badly they wanted this one. But in the top of the eighth inning, Cano hesitated when he thought a line drive had been caught by the third baseman. The dropped ball should have been an infield single, but Cano was thrown out by a step. In the bottom of the eighth, Cano failed to stop the game-winning single from getting into right field. If he’d at least knocked it down, the winning run might not have scored, but Cano didn’t get in front of it.
Taken individually, it’s easy to understand Cano stopping when he thought the line drive was caught, and it honestly looked like was going to make that play on the Gimenez grounder, but after a one-run loss like this — with the Yankees division lead growing smaller and smaller — it’s also easy to look back and second guess.
“Robbie’s so good for us,” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t get (to the groundball), but I thought he was going to get there when I first saw it come off the bat. Maybe it got through quicker because it was on the turf. I don’t know. … You’ve got to try to do everything you can to stop it.”
Fourth inning: CC Sabathia pitches around a two-out double for a shutdown inning.
Rest of the game: Sabathia blew another lead and the bullpen took another loss.
Dave Robertson wasn’t hit hard, but he was hit enough to take the loss. It was another loss that hung on the bullpen, but that wasn’t the biggest pitching concern of the day. Just like in his previous start, Sabathia was given a lead and couldn’t hold it. He wasn’t terrible — three runs through seven innings — but he wasn’t dominant either, and Shields was certainly better. Sabathia held the lead for one inning, but a walk, single, double steal and RBI groundout let the Rays tie it in the fifth.
“It’s frustrating, especially after the last outing, not being able to hold the lead,” Sabathia said. “Today I’ve just got to be a lot better than I was. … I felt like my stuff was good, I just didn’t make pitches when I needed to. Got into some bad counts and didn’t make the right pitches.”
• There was some second guessing of Derek Jeter’s decision to throw to first, not home, on the game-tying ground out in the fifth. “What was there, nobody out?” Jeter said. “That would have been a tough one right there. Upton can run. If you don’t get him, you’re looking at two guys on and still nobody out. In that situation, what was it, the fifth, I think? You’ve got to go for the out.”
• Jeter did look home as if he were thinking about trying for the out at the plate. “I’m always looking,” Jeter said. “I looked up, but I didn’t think we had it. We maybe, possibly, could have had a chance, but in that situation, that inning, you don’t take a chance like that. Maybe in the 8th inning, 9th inning, something like that, it might have been a different story.”
• Rodriguez said his timing was good and he felt good in his first big league game since late July. “Overall, I felt good,” he said. “Again, it’s a process. Today was another step forward. Saw the ball well, hand felt good, and I liked the intensity the team played with today. And tomorrow’s another day.”
• Rodriguez struck out in his final at-bat against Rodney. “I’m thinking about, Rodney’s got great stuff, just get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it,” Rodriguez said. “He gave me two good pitches to hit and I fouled them back, and the rest is history.”
• Girardi didn’t seem upset at Cano for not running out of the box on that line drive that was dropped at third. “I think he thought he caught it, then he ran,” Girardi said. “That happens. Guys think a line drive is caught and then they kind of freeze.” If the Yankees weren’t in this situation — losing games and seeing their lead dwindle — it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, but given this situation, it was ugly to see Cano miss out on a possible hit because he wasn’t hustling.
• Sabathia on the home run pitch to Upton: “Two seamer away. It was up and he put a good swing on it. … (Trying to go) down and away. Trying to get a ground ball. He was in a hitter’s count. Just trying to make a pitch and ended up leaving the ball out over the plate.”
• Sabathia has won just three of 17 starts against the Rays since coming to the Yankees. He has a 3.57 ERA in those starts, but he’s 3-7. Before coming the Yankees, Sabathia was a 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 11 career starts against the Rays (granted, those earlier Rays teams probably weren’t nearly as good).
• Robertson on his outing: “I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff but I felt like I had good enough stuff to be able to get three outs. It’s unfortunate today that I wasn’t able to do that. … I fell behind a couple of times. Still, you want to make one good pitch and be able to get the outs you need. It seemed like I just couldn’t make a good enough pitch. Balls were finding holes and they were getting through.”
• Curtis Granderson pinch hit and struck out in the ninth. If he’d reached base, Granderson would have been lifted for a pinch runner.
• No concerns about Ichiro Suzuki after his collision with Chris Dickerson. By the way, Dickerson is probably much bigger than most people realize. Dickerson was going to win that collision with no problem.
• Final word goes to Jeter: “Yea, right now (things are going bad), but you can change it. We beat some teams early on, right? Baseball’s a funny game, a funny sport. Sometimes you struggle a bit, and then all of a sudden, things seem to change and you roll off a lot of wins. Hopefully we start that tomorrow. … Still got to have confidence. Unfortunately you can’t win every day. You’d like to — he approach is to win every day — but you’re going to go through highs and lows. You still have to have confidence, and we have a lot of confidence.”
Associated Press photos