Going into this series, I considered a series split to be a victory for the Rays. It got a bit hairy after losing the first two games, but the Rays pulled it out, winning last night in a 10-3 thrashing. Neither David Price or CC Sabathia looked as sharp as they did in their match-up a week prior, with each pitcher allowing over 10 baserunners (12 for Price, 13 for Sabathia) and getting into a fair number of jams. The main difference between the two: Price managed to escape those jams with minimal damage, while Sabathia imploded in the sixth inning.
It may not get a lot of attention due to the offensive outburst that followed in the sixth inning, but Price's performance in the fifth inning was huge. The Yankees started the inning by scoring a run on a double by Greg Dolson, a single by Derek Jeter, and a single by Nick Swisher, making it 3-1 and putting them in a position to break the game open. Mark Teixiera struck out and Alex Rodriguez then walked, loading the bases (with only one out, mind you) and bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. With the way Price had been throwing - walking lots of batters, giving up plenty of hits - I figured that's it, game over. So much for our hopes at the division.
But Price, in all his sneakiness, managed to wiggle his way free. Cano popped up in the infield and then Marcum Thames followed with a strikeout. Crisis averted, and the Rays went on to score seven runs off the Yankees in the top of the next inning. Price certainly wasn't outstanding last night - only 10 swinging strikes and he had trouble locating his curveball - but he got the job done.
On the offensive side, I'd love to highlight one at bat from the sixth inning that was clutch, but it's so tough to choose just one. Carl Crawford started things off with a single. Rocco Baldelli brought in the first run with a swinging safety squeeze. Willy Aybar brought in the tying run on a rope to centerfield. And then BJ Upton rips into deep left-centerfield, bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double and giving the Rays a big lead. It was one heck of an inning.
Now that we've split this series with the Yankees, it means the Rays can ride their easy schedule (Seattle, Baltimore, and Kansas City) while hopefully making up ground on the Yankees (who face Boston, Toronto, and Boston). The Rays have now won the season series again the Yanks, meaning that if we end up tied at the end of the season, the Rays will be declared the division winners. Given that the Rays are only down a half game and face a considerably easier schedule, the odds are quite good that we touch out the Yankees by the end. Could the Rays possibly win two AL East division titles in three years? That's something that no team outside the Yankees (even the Red Sox) have done in recent memory.
- Ah, I love good schadenfreude. Not going to lie, I got a perverse pleasure out of watching Javier Vazquez implode during the seventh inning. Check out this play-by-play: BB, HBP, HBP, HBP, BB, sacrifice fly, BB. He tied the major league record for most hit batters in a row. Ouch.
- Talk about mailing it in. Anyone that was attacking Joe Maddon for giving up on games earlier in this series, take a look at what Joe Girardi did late in this game. First of all, he went to Javier Vazquez in the seventh and stuck with him through his troubles, and then he replaces nearly every one of his position players in the eighth inning.