The Rays dropped game one of their four game set against New York, falling 8-6 against the Yankees. The offense found a number of ways to score runs, but the pitching couldn't keep the Yankees off the board long enough for that to matter.
The main culprit was Matt Garza. In his last three starts, including tonight, Garza has lines of:
4.1IP, 9H, 6ER, 4HR, 2BB, 1K
4.2IP, 9H, 6ER, 2HR, 2BB, 4K
5.0IP, 8H, 5ER, 1HR, 4BB, 1K
He's been downright Niemannian over that stretch. While home plate Umpire Tim McClelland had a very questionable zone, Garza did himself no favors on the evening. Of the 90 pitches Garza threw 66 were fastballs, registering a strike percentage of ~60. The only swinging strike Garza racked up came on a slider, which he threw just eight of on the evening. It seemed as if the Yankee hitters were going to make him throw a breaking ball or off speed pitch for a strike to beat them, and he simply couldn't.
This three start stretch has come against Boston, New York, and New York so it's not like he's facing the easiest of lineups, but it's not going to get any easier come October either.
Grant Balfour relieved Garza after three straight Yankees had reached to start the sixth inning. The left handed hitting Curtis Granderson was at the plate. He would hit a home run to put the Yankees up 8-4 and bring the second guessers out in full force. Sure, Maddon could have brought in Choate to face Granderson and left Teixeria and Rodriguez for Balfour. But Balfour isn't a situational reliever; his splits are good against each hand. Specifically in 2010 his FIP vs left handed hitting is 2.28 (3.02 career), with zero home runs allowed coming into the game. I have no issue with bringing Balfour in, the results just could have been better.
Edit: Apparently Maddon thought Choate was warming and not Balfour. "My fault", Maddon said.
The offense scored in some creative ways. In the sixth inning the Rays picked up four runs, one each by a catcher's interference, a double play, a bloop single, and a bases loaded walk. They would threaten in the 7th and 9th innings, each time getting two men on, but would settle for one run in each instance. Ben Zobrist continued where he left off last game by collecting three more hits, and Longoria knocked in a team high two runs.
Hopefully tommorrow Shields can pitch like he did last week against New York and the Rays can pick up the victory.