NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees beats the throw to Casey Kotchman #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays for a third inning base hit on September 21, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
This recap comes courtesy of SBN Tampa Bay.
In a game that should have been an easy win, the Rays (85-69) could not take advantage of the Yankees (94-60) and their cavalcade of relievers. Hector Noesi started the game, but his 50 to 60 pitch count limit lasted him only 2 and 2/3 innings. He was then followed by seven different relievers.
James Shields (L, 15-12) started the game poorly, giving up a two-out RBI double to Alex Rodriguez, but with his team down 0-1, he began pitching lights-out. Over the following six innings, Shields frustrated the Yankees hitters, allowing only two base runners. In the top of the 3rd, Desmond Jennings gave Shields a precarious 1-run lead after hitting a 2-run homer that snuck over the left field wall.
Shields proceed to strike out 7 batters, while walking only 2 -- unfortunately, the second of the 2 walks came in the crucial 8th inning. At the bottom of the 8th, Eduardo Nunez homered to left, tying the game 2-2. One out later, Brett Gardner singled to left (following an annoyingly good at bat) and then Derek Jeter walked.
At this point, Joe Maddon elected to bring in lefty J.P. Howell from the bullpen. After falling down 3-1 to Curtis Granderson, Howell left a slider over the outside of the plate and high, which Granderson powered into centerfield for a game-winning 2-run double.
Mariano Rivera came in to pitch a perfect top of the 9th and the Rays, just like that, fell to 2.5 back in the Wild Card standings, and New York clinched it's 94th win and a postseason spot.
- Eduardo Nunez stole second and third base off James Shields today, who had a difficult time controlling the runners for the first time in seemingly a long time. All told, the Yankees stole three bases and were not caught once.
- The Rays, who should have torn through the Yankees relievers today, mustered only 3 extra base hits over 9 total hits. Elliot Johnson and Casey Kotchman both doubled, and Desmond Jennings homered, but the lineup also combined for 10 strikeouts and only 2 walks.
- Ben Zobrist arrived late to the game and had a pinch hit strikeout in the 8th inning. At least he will get a full 4 PAs in the later game because the Rays have a monumental task in the form of solving CC Sabathia.