In the final game before the break, the Rays scored early, then held on for dear life to upend the Yankees and earn a split. It was a game that featured either a ton of clutch pitching, a dearth of clutch hitting, or just some random variation in sequencing, depending on your mood.
On offense, the Rays stacked the lineup with right handed hitters against lefty James Paxton.
Let's finish the first half strong. https://t.co/G5HjHmy8fX #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/TEl25LgA2d— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 7, 2019
All the offense they would need came in the first, when they plated two runs. The rally started when yesterday’s hero Travis d’Arnaud led off by poking one up the right field line for a double. He scored on a Tommy Pham shot through the middle. Pham then basically pants’d the Yankees by swiping second when nobody covered it.
Grand theft second base pic.twitter.com/fNYRSSxRIg— John Ford (@kingofchapter1) July 7, 2019
Diaz followed with a single that sent Pham to third, and Garcia brought Pham home when Garcia grounded into a force out. 2-0 Rays.
The Rays had several chances to tack on but couldn’t come get the big hit. In the bottom of the third, Tommy Pham hooked a one-out double up the left field line, but Diaz and Garcia were unable to drive him in as both fanned.
The Rays rally in the fifth also came up short. Kiermaier led off with a single to right, then swiped second. But a strikeout from Zunino, a groundout from d’Arnaud, and a pop out from Pham left him stranded.
Diaz led off the bottom of the sixth with a double into the left field corner. Garcia followed with an infield single, putting runners at the corners. Strikeouts of Nate Lowe, Brosseau, and Adames kept the runners in place. The key play in the sequence was when Brosseau attempted to bunt the 0-1 pitch, but pushed it foul. It was a play that, if executed, scores Diaz easily.
Tommy Kahnle took over for the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh, and was greeted by a Kevin Kiermaier single. KK then swiped second (again) and advanced to third on a Zunino groundout. d’Arnaud failed to get the runner home, striking out swinging. Ottavino then came on to get Pham on a fly to right.
One final Tampa Bay chance came in the eighth, when Garcia smacked a one out single to center. After a Nate Lowe strikeout, Mike Brosseau singled after a long at bat to put runners on the corners. But Willy Adames grounded out sharply to end the threat.
On the pitching side, All-Star Charlie Morton took the hill for the Rays hoping to finish strong after a great first half. The first inning set the tone, with Morton striking out the side in order in the first.
Not too shabby! Charlie Morton strikes out the side to start game. #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/bpP0xRVsyU— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) July 7, 2019
Morton recorded two more strikeouts in the second. But he also left one over the middle of the plate that Brett Gardner hit out to right. 2-1 Rays.
That would be the only run the Yankees could manage against him, as Morton went 5.2, giving up five hits, a walk, and getting ten strikeouts.
But it wasn’t easy going. The Yankees had plenty of chances themselves.
Their first shot at tying it up came in the third, when the Yankees put runners on the corner with nobody out. But Morton pitched out of the jam by striking out Hicks and Judge, then retiring Gregorius on a well-struck flyner to Kiermaier.
ꓘ#RaysUp pic.twitter.com/Dl4rBKaJvs— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 7, 2019
The Yankees wasted a two out Brett Gardner double in the fourth when Urshela grounded out, and wasted a two out Aaron Hicks walk in the fifth when Morton struck out Judge to end it.
In the sixth, Morton gave up a one out single to Sanchez, then finished his day against Encarnación, picking up his tenth strikeout. Adam Kolarek then came on to get the pesky Gardner, retiring him with one pitch on a grounder back to the mound.
A stubble-faced Kittredge took over for the Rays in the seventh, and it was apparent from the get-go that this is the proper amount of facial hair for him. Also, he retired the side in order, which helped.
Kittredge and Poche worked through a clean eighth against the meat of the Yankees order. Pagan picked up his fifth save with a clean ninth, including strikeouts of Sanchez and Gardner.
Happy All-Star break, everybody!