After claiming the first two games of the series, the Rays came into Sunday with a chance to sweep. Ace Chris Archer took the mound against C.C. Sabathia, who has been inconsistent this spring, and sported a 4.93 ERA.
The Yankees turned on the pressure early. Brett Gardner singled to open the game, and a throwing error by shortstop Tim Beckham put runners at second and third before Archer could settle in. A sharp Archer responded by striking out Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Aaron Judge to stave off the threat.
In the bottom of the first, New York made their own costly error. An errant pickoff throw from catcher Gary Sanchez pushed Evan Longoria to second and allowed Corey Dickerson to score from second base, giving the Rays an early 1-0 advantage.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as Didi Gregorius singled in Jacoby Ellsbury in the top of the second inning to tie the game at one a piece. The deciding blow came just a few batters later. Brett Gardner took a Chris Archer pitch over the right field fence, and the Yankees led 3-1.
Archer and Sabathia got into grooves in the middle innings. Sabathia didn’t allow a base runner between the second and fourth innings; Archer struck out six and didn’t allow a run from the third to the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Derek Norris pulled a line drive over the left field wall to bring the Rays within one run. Peter Bourjos singled later in the inning, but the Rays failed to drive him in. The deficit remained at one.
In the sixth inning, arguably the biggest play of the game occurred. Evan Longoria crushed a deep fly ball to right field, which Corey Dickerson assumed would be a hit and scampered all the way to third base from first. Aaron Judge had other plans, however. A full body dive into the ground took away extra bases from Longoria, and the throw back to first doubled off Dickerson. Rickie Weeks flew out to end the inning.
Kevin Cash let Archer out to start the seventh inning, but two men reached base, he called to Danny Farquhar. He struck out Brett Gardner, walked Gary Sanchez, but came back to strike out Matt Holliday to end the threat.
More drama would occur in the seventh. Steven Souza walked on four pitches away. He was replaced at first by Kevin Kiermaier, who reached on a fielder’s choice and promptly stole second base. Derek Norris grounded out and Kiermaier moved up to third with two outs. Joe Girardi brought in Tyler Clippard after the Rays announced Logan Morrison as the pinch-hitter for Daniel Robertson. The two battled for ten long pitches, but Morrison could only manage a soft fly ball to left field.
Ryne Stanek came in to pitch the eighth and struck out two. Tyler Clippard stayed for the bottom of the eighth to strike out Tim Beckham and Colby Rasmus. Dellin Betances came in to face red-hot Corey Dickerson and struck him out to end the eighth.
In the ninth, Diego Moreno got in some trouble. Didi Gregorious picked up his fourth single, and a Michael Martinez error put runners at second and third. He got Brett Gardner to fly out to left and struck out Gary Sanchez on a high fastball to get out of it.
Betances stayed out in the ninth to go for a four-out save. Evan Longoria popped up a spinning, middle of the plate breaking ball and sulked off the field in disappointment. Michael Martinez, making his Rays debut, was overpowered by triple-digit heat. Steven Souza Jr. put up a fight in his at-bat, but a 2-2 curve buckled his knees and sealed the Yankees’ victory.
The loss ended the rays’ four-game winning streak and brought them back down to .500. Sitting at 23-23, the rays play host to the Los Angeles Angels Monday night. Jake Odorizzi will be opposed by J.C. Ramirez at 7:10 p.m. EST.