I get that the Yankees already had a very small chance (1.5% before today's games) of making the playoffs, but despite that -- or perhaps because of that -- it feels good to play spoilers this series. With no room for error, the Yankees need to go on a ridiculous run. The Rays didn't let that happen.
The start of the game was the James Loney show. The first pitch he saw was a fastball on the inner third, up at the hands. It's precisely the type of pitch where Loney unleashes his significant-but-often-hidden power. He stood and admired his shot into the second deck, which was understandable, since it sure was pretty. No word from Chris Archer on whether Loney has class.
Loney's next at bat came in the third after Ryan Hanigan, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria had all singled to produce a run. Loney got it done again, this time stroking a sinker on the bottom outside corner up the middle for a single of his own. Three more singles in the fourth, by Kevin Kiermaier, Hanigan and Zobrist brought home what would prove to be the winning run, and ended Hiroki Kuroda's night.
Chris Archer was perfect through his first three innings, but Jacoby Ellsbury caught up with his fastball in the fourth. After Archer barely missed with a 2-2 backdoor slider, Ellsbury was clearly expecting a fastball over the plate, and he got it. 4-1.
The bottom of the fifth was the inning of outfield arms. Archer got himself into trouble by hitting Chase Headley with a frontdoor fastball that stayed too far inside, and then Ichiro Suzuki slapped a single through the left side of the infield. Next up, Stephen Drew blooped a fly ball into short center field, which Kevin Kiermaier charged, as always, at full speed. He bobbled his pickup, and an aggressive runner could have scored, but rather than being aggressive, the Yanks' third base coach was smart, and he had already held the runner before Kiermaier's bobble. Reputations build quickly.
The next batter, Chris Young, knocked another grounder through the infield, this time to Matt Joyce in left field. Joyce -- once an every-day right-fielder -- got off a terrible throw that allowed two runs to score. Drew was held at second. Luckily for Joyce, he got another chance. Ellsbury also singled into left, and this time Joyce's throw was much better. It bounced twice, but it was on target and it beat the runner. Ryan Hanigan set up to the inside of the baseline, but as soon as he saw the location of the throw he moved to receive it, which incidentally, set him up to block the plate legally. Joe Girardi challenged, but the call was upheld. One batter later, Derek Jeter clutchly lined into a double play. And he showed great leadership while doing so.
In the bottom of the eleventh inning, Ichiro hit a one-out single that glanced off of Archer's foot. Yunel Escobar, playing up the middle, would have been able to field, but the deflection allowed Ichiro to reach base, and Maddon elected to pull Archer for Grant Balfour after only 90 pitches.
Chris Archer wasn't great, only striking out three Yankee batters, but he didn't walk anyone either. And he mostly did enough (with a fastball that touched 98 mph) to keep the Yankee batters slightly off balance and let his fielders do their jobs. Performances like this are not the stuff of top-of-the-rotation starters, but they'll do some of the time.
Grant Balfour has been an adventure this season, and he was one again tonight. He immediately missed badly with a fastball in the dirt, but Ryan Hanigan speared it. The next pitch was a curve, also in the dirt, and Ichiro easily stole second. Ichiro saw an opportunity to get to third with less than two outs, and he got a great jump off second. He would have made it easily, but Stephen Drew swung at a 2-0 curve down and away that he probably should have taken, flying it to short left field. Wil Myers bounced his throw badly, but it didn't matter. Easy double play to end the inning.
Jake and the Box did what Jake and the Box do, with a little help from Kevin Kiermaier.
Some other notes:
- Yankees broadcaster, talking about other Yankees broadcaster: "This man has never had a banana or ketchup."
- We later got a riveting discussion about who should be eating broccoli.
- Why do we suddenly seem to think that September callups are unfair? Don't teams know this is happening so shouldn't they stockpile minor league depth if they can? Why is bullpen matchups in important games a bad thing? Isn't it fun for the fan to get to see the future of her team, to give the David Prices and Alex Torreses of the world the chance to make a first impression? It seems like this complaint is in the air more this year than normal (was listening to the Yanks announcers discuss it), and I couldn't disagree more. I'm proudly in favor of expanded rosters.